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Artnet News
June 28, 2006 

Comic California conceptualist John Baldessari is on his way to Washington, D.C., for "Ways of Seeing: John Baldessari Explores the Collection" at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, opening July 26, 2006. The exhibition, the Hirshhorn's first to be curated by an artist, includes paintings by Milton Avery and Philip Guston, painting and photography by Thomas Eakins and sculpture by Emily Kaufman, which will be shown along with four early works by Baldessari himself, recently acquired by the institution. Baldessari is known for works that interrogate the ways meaning is produced in art, though it's not certain how this will filter into his curating.

A mystery resides at the heart of Raphael's so-called Colonna Altarpiece, currently the subject of a much-praised show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 20-Sept. 4, 2006. Originally commissioned around 1500 for the inner church of the Franciscan convent of Sant' Antonio di Padova in Perugia, the altarpiece was sold off piecemeal by the impoverished nuns in the late 1600s, with the central panel, now dubbed Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, joining the holdings of the Colonna family in the late 17th and 18th centuries and eventually being purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1901, passing into the Met collection at his death in 1913. The reunification of all the parts after their peregrinations provides the rationale for the Met show.

The mystery? It resides in the garb of the baby Jesus, who is not naked as is typical for Renaissance images of the Virgin and Child but rather is clothed in a two-part robe that brings to mind, to one contemporary viewer at least, the "Juicy" sweatsuits of recent vintage. According to Met curator Linda Wolk-Simon, Giorgio Vasari writes in his biography of Raphael that the nuns requested the unusual outfit because they considered the infant's nudity "indecorous." Even more curiously, on the shoulder of the Christ Child's robe is a patch with an odd geometric design -- a clover insignia drawn in gold on a green diamond-shaped insignia, bordered by white and placed inside a red square trimmed with linear flourishes that could be fancy stitching. It's exactly the type of elaborate "trademarke" patch that also finds pride of place on contemporary urban wear.

The emblem has been identified as the scapular (a religious badge) of Saint Anthony of Padua, writes Wolk-Simon in a footnote in the exhibition catalogue, but no one knows for sure. "Perhaps a visitor to the exhibition can tell us what it is," she said, hopefully.

The fallout from the bitter resignation of Sunjung Kim from her position as director of Korea's participation in the 2007 ARCO fair in Madrid continues. Kim's very public departure came over bureaucratic interference into the program, and was accompanied by solidarity resignations from all of the organizers and curators of the artistic programs of Korea at ARCO '07 (see Artnet News, June 13, 2006), including David Ross, who had planned a retrospective of work by Nam June Paik, and Charles Esche, who had curated a showcase of emerging Korean artists. Now, the Korean Ministry of Culture has counterattacked, accusing Kim of "attacking the national interest" and stealing public funds.

It also appears as if the ministry is attempting to carry out the existing program (which has an overall budget of $2,000,000), minus the original curators. In addition to the Ross and Esche shows, the scheduled events include a solo exhibition of Lee Bul to be held at Domus in Salamanca, curated by Paco Barragan; a public art project by Choi Jeong-Hwa to be held at Casa Encendida in Madrid; a project featuring young video artists curated by Seungmin Yoo, also at Casa Encendida; an exhibition of Yang Hae-Gyu at the Reina Sofia; a photo exhibition curated by Lee Young June at Canal Isabel II; a community project by Art Center Nabi to be held at Intermediae in Madrid; and a group exhibition at Casa Asia. Observers have been quick to point out that such a move on the part of the Korean officials would amount to intellectual theft. Stay tuned.

With all the art-world expansion, the Chinese contemporary art scene seems to be going through a painful adolescence. The Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai picks up on this with "How To Disappear Completely," July 1, 2006, an art event described as a "collective listening of Radiohead's album Kid A through which you will become-imperceptible," lead by Canadian philosophy professor Erik Bordeleau. Part of something called "The Duolun MoMA Mind Lab," the event claims to offer a perceptual experience that responds to China's rapid modernization and the sense of cultural dislocation that has come along with it, through the medium of the popular British electro-depressive band. "For their own comfort, participants are invited to bring cushions," the press release notes.

The 2006 Taipei Biennial, Nov. 4, 2006-Feb. 25, 2007, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum has a theme, and that theme is. . . "Dirty Yoga." Don't get too excited though -- co-curators Dan Cameron and Junjieh Wang explain in the densely be-jargoned press release that the provocative title is in fact meant to represent "a 'third way' of understanding the world," "a discourse of 'betweenness'," "a liminal state where normal restrictions do not apply" and "the latent discord between the body's living perfection and its ultimate state of demise." Such is what passes for curatorial discourse these days. Still, the organizers do conclude that while no one, to their knowledge, practices DY, "the co-curators of the 2006 Taipei Biennial are convinced that it is only a question of time before it is widely available."

In any case, the lineup of artists from some 20 countries sounds exciting enough: Alexandre Arrechea, Monica Bonvicini, Cao Fei, E Chen, Meng-te Chou, Jonas Dahlberg, El Perro, Isa Genzken, Katharina Grosse, Fengyi Guo, Subodh Gupta, Emily Jacir, Yeondoo Jung, An-My Le, Lee Bul, Nalini Malani, Yuko Murata, Eko Nugroho, Damian Ortega, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Mauro Restiffe, Robin Rhode, Carolee Schneemann, Shahzia Sikhander, Regina Silveira, Valeska Soares, Jennifer Steinkamp, Vivan Sundarma, Kazuma Taguchi, Koki Tanaka, Francesco Vezzoli, VIVA, Nari Ward and Tony Wu. For more info, see the website at

ARTnews is releasing its annual survey of the "top 200" buyers in the art world. The 16th annual list, of course, contains many of the same names year to year, but does highlight some 20 new folks, including LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, German advertising mastermind Christian Boros, Miami-based investor Ella Fontanals Cisneros, novelist and global warming skeptic Michael Crichton, hedge-fund wizard Andrew Hall, Warner Brothers president Alan Horn, Israeli shipping and real estate magnate Sammy Ofer, luxury goods kingpin François Pinault, real estate developer Aby J. Rosen, asset manager Steve Tananbaum and clothing and retail goods giant Leslie H. Wexner. The complete list is at

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has turned to socialite and long-time Vogue art writer Dodie Kazanjian to helm its new Gallery Met, an art space to display original works of opera-themed contemporary art. The gallery, designed by Lindy Roy and located on the south side lobby of the opera house, debuts Sept. 22, 2006, with a show "inspired by the heroines of the season's new productions." The inaugural exhibition features works by Cecily Brown (inspired by the character of Suor Angelica in Il Trittico), John Currin (Helena in Die Ägyptische Helena), Barnaby Furnas (Euridice in Orfeo ed Euridice), Makiko Kudo (Princess Yue-yang in The First Emperor), Richard Prince (Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly) and Sophie von Hellermann (Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia). Other artists on Kazanjian's list for the show are David Salle, Verne Dawson, George Condo and Wangechi Mutu.

The Jerwood Charitable Foundation has teamed up with Artangel, the well-known UK-based public arts organization, to present the "The Jerwood Artangel Open," making possible three new commissions from artists worth a total of £1 million. The selection committee includes visual artists Jeremy Deller and Shirin Neshat, theater director Emma Rice and Artangel co-directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris. The winning commissions are to be realized between 2008 and 2010. Proposals are due by Oct. 6, 2006. For more info, see

Artadia, the "fund for art and dialogue" founded in 1997 by investment banker Christopher Edwin Vroom, is inviting all artists residing in Cook County in Illinois to apply for its Artadia Chicago grants, July 1-Sept. 1, 2006. Each award is worth $10,000. Look for details at

Jennifer Blessing has been promoted to the newly minted position as curator of photography at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Currently a PhD candidate in the art history department at New York University, Blessing has been on the staff of the Gugg since 1989, and has helped organize many exhibitions, including "Seven Easy Pieces," the successful series of performances by Marina Abramovic in 2005.

At a meeting of the Fairmount Park Art Association, on May 23, 2006, held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Light and Space artist James Turrell told the audience that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was planning to acquire the Watts Towers, the folk art masterpiece designed by Simon Rodia in L.A., a public monument currently operated by the city of L.A. The subject came up as Turrell, who is returning to his Quaker roots by creating a Quaker meeting house in Philly, spoke about how much the towers had meant to him growing up. A press representative for LACMA said she knew of no such plan.

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