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Artnet News
July 24, 2006 

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami has teamed up with hip-hop star Kanye West for a variety of projects centering around West’s upcoming album Graduation, due to be released on Sept. 11, 2007. The first two singles from the album, Can’t Tell Me Nothing and Stronger, already feature Murakami artworks as covers -- the former a grimacing head made of neon coils, and the latter a rendering of West’s bear mascot with two helmeted robots floating nearby (representing the band Daft Punk, which is sampled on the track). West told that Murakami also did a three-minute animation for one of the songs on Graduation.

Though he’s living the life of a Grammy-winning hip-hop star, West seems to have a real admiration for Murakami’s lifestyle, describing him as "a god in the art world." During a recent tour of Japan, West visited the artist’s Kaikai Kiki studio and took his own souvenir snapshots of Hiropon, Murakami’s life-sized sculpture of a bosomy anime pinup. The two men had their photo taken posing in front of the work, an image that is part of an illustrated report by Akiko Kato on the Kaikai Kiki website.

"Murakami, his work has been stunning to me," said West in an MTV interview. "Every single that’s coming out for my album, he did the artwork for the covers. . . . And all the merchandising for the new album is Murakami."

The admiration, apparently, is mutual. During his stop at the studio, West showed off a diamond-encrusted crucifix that he had designed himself -- "Breathtaking," wrote Kato, "Christ’s eyes shined blue" -- and then went on to sketch an idea for another amulet design. West asked Murakami to add eyes to the drawing, and "an unexpected collaboration was born!" The sketch was clearly the inspiration for the neon creature from Murakami’s Can’t Tell Me Nothing cover, and the necklace West wears in the Can’t Tell Me Nothing video looks like the Kaikai Kiki drawing.

"We think that he [West] and Takashi share this eerie ability to concentrate and approach everything with utmost seriousness," Kato concludes. The report also hints at another common interest between the two superstars -- Louis Vuitton, whose brand Murakami famously revitalized several years ago. West entered Murakami’s studio wearing a colored Vuitton pouch. Both of the rapper’s new singles refer to the luxury handbag maker (Can’t Tell Me Nothing includes the words "And what’d I do? Act more stupidly/Bought more jewelry, more Louis V;" and Stronger includes the lyric "I’m caught up in the moment, right?/This is Louis Vuitton dime night.")

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based nonprofit whose causes include banning both landmines and the use of child soldiers, is keeping its eye on both the Guggenheim and Louvre museums. In separate statements issued on July 19, 2007, Human Rights Watch urged the two museums to protect the rights of laborers working on the construction of their new branches in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island cultural complex.

A recent HRW report asserts that the building boom in the United Arab Emirates is based on the abuse of South Asian migrant workers, who face "wage exploitation, indebtedness to unscrupulous recruiters, and working conditions that are hazardous to the point of being deadly." The nonprofit further calls on both the Gugg and the Louvre "to require that its UAE partners not withhold workers’ wages, not confiscate passports, document and publicly report work-related injuries and deaths, and forbid recruiters from unlawfully collecting recruiting, travel and visa fees from workers," as well as guarantee workers’ rights to bargain collectively, form unions and strike.  

In February, HRW brought its concerns to the attention of Guggenheim Foundation director Thomas Krens and Guggenheim board chair William Mack, as well as Louvre director Henri Loyrette and France’s then-culture minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres. According to HRW, no response has yet been received.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, is greeting the fall season with an art-world homage to rock music. "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967," Sept. 29, 2007-Jan. 6, 2008, promises Andy Warhol screen tests of rockers like Lou Reed, 14 portraits of artists and musicians by Richard Prince (ranging from Brian Eno to Amos Poe), a gallery floor layered with vinyl records by Christian Marclay, drawings for album covers by Raymond Pettibon and a neon-sign installation titled Velvet Underground / Perfect World by the late Jason Rhoades. The show, which is organized by Dominic Molon, also includes artists from England, Europe and Japan. It subsequently appears at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, May 31-Sept. 8, 2008.

The first major U.S. retrospective of work by the celebrated conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art next fall. "Lawrence Weiner: As Far as the Eye Can See," Nov. 15, 2007-Feb. 10, 2008, is co-organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where it appears Apr. 13-July 14, 2008. The show is curated by Donna De Salvo and Ann Goldstein, and includes works from throughout a career that stretches nearly 50 years. Weiner’s short films are also being screened at Anthology Film Archives on the Lower East Side.

"Roman Art from the Louvre," an exhibition of 184 artworks, including mosaics, frescoes, monumental sculptures, terracottas and gold jewelry  -- the largest traveling exhibition ever drawn from the Louvre collections -- doesn’t open at the Indianapolis Museum of Art until Sept. 23, 2007-Jan. 6, 2008. In the meantime, the museum has launched, which features short web-vids as well as other info on the show. The exhibition also appears at the Seattle Art Museum, Feb. 19-May 11, 2008, and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, June 19-Oct. 12, 2008.

One of the lesser mysteries of the 52nd Venice Biennale, June 10-Nov. 21, 2007, revolves around the Panama pavilion -- that is, where the hell is it? According to rumor, the pavilion features a survey of works by Panama native Richard Prince, but it is not to be found on the various official guides and maps of the sprawling international event. What’s going on? The artist himself explains in an email:

The Panama Pavilion was a failure. We tried to get Noriega out of jail. We wanted to fly him to Venice and sit him behind a desk so he could sign 8 x 10 glossies at $25 a pop. But Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, (that’s where he’s still jailed) wouldn’t grant him a furlough. We promised to chaperone the former general, and even suggested putting him in an ankle bracelet (we were planning on engraving it with the name Scooter and maybe even editioning it), but in the end our efforts were rejected. So instead I made a poster with two Polish Lesbian Nurses. You’ve heard about the Polish Lesbians? They don’t like women. 

The poster is offered for €10 plus postage by the Case d’Arte gallery in Milan. For details, see

N.B.: A correspondent from Artnews magazine reminds us that the official Panama pavilion is located on the Dorsoduro in the Istituto Italo-Latino Americano, and that the artist who represents Panama is Jonathan Harker.

The AXA Gallery in the AXA Equitable Center at 787 Seventh Avenue and 51st Street in Manhattan -- the former Equitable Building, whose lobby also houses an impressive Roy Lichtenstein mural from 1985 and seating by the late artist Scott Burton -- has been closed, and its curator, Pari Stave, assigned to other duties in the giant insurance company, a notable corporate art patron. A true asset to art lovers in New York, the gallery has hosted traveling exhibitions of photographs by David Goldblatt (2001) and Ellsworth Kelly plant lithographs (2006), as well as a historical look at Times Square on the occasion of its centennial (2004-05). The final exhibition, "Art of the Lega," organized by the UCLA Fowler Museum in L.A., appeared at the AXA Gallery, Sept. 21, 2006-Jan. 14, 2007. Word is that the company now seeks a paying tenant for the space.

Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang has accepted the Hiroshima Art Prize, which honors those who have contributed to "the peace of humanity in the field of contemporary art." Awarded by the city of Hiroshima, Japan, the prize includes a purse of ¥5 million -- about $41,500. The Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art is scheduled to hold an exhibition of Cai’s work in autumn 2008. Previous winners of the prize are Leon Golub and Nancy Spero (as a team), Daniel Libeskind, Issey Miyake, Shirin Neshat, Robert Rauschenberg and Krzysztof Wodiczko.

Since Artnet Magazine published its listing of art fairs and biennials in the second second half of 2007 [see Artnet News, July 18, 2007], several more events that we overlooked have been brought to our attention. An update:

* The Docks Art Fair in Lyon, Sept. 17-23, 2007, runs concurrently with the opening of the Lyon Biennial, and sets itself apart by requiring exhibitors to mount only solo shows of emerging artists. It all takes place in a tent just a few meters from "La Sucrière," the principal exhibition place of the biennial. Among the international participants are Swiss gallery Analix Forever (featuring the work of Jeanine Woollard), Mexico’s Galeria Nina Menocal (with Martin & Sicilia), Italy’s NEXTDOOR. . . Artgalleria (with Maurizio Savini) and Parker’s Box from Williamburg (with Joyce Pensato).

* Photoquai, Oct. 30-Nov. 25, 2007, is a new Paris biennial that takes place at the same time as Paris Photo and DiVA Paris. Organized by the Musée du Quai Branly, the show boasts more than 30 city-wide events that highlight work from the regions included in the museum’s collections -- Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Along with workshops on barges for international art students and 41 containers on the Left Bank showcasing video and photo art, the festivities include a solo show by New Zealand photographer Anne Noble at the musée itself and an exhibition of Walker Evans at the Louvre’s Pavillon des Sessions.

* The recently announced Photography Show Miami, Dec. 5-9, 2007, joins the plethora of other commercial fairs in Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach week. Organized by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, the show presents 45 dealers, including Laurence Miller and Yancey Richardson (New York), Stephen Cohen and Michael Dawson (Los Angeles), Fay Gold (Atlanta) and HackelBury Fine Art Limited (London).

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