NEW YORK ARTISTS PROTEST ANTI-FILMING RULE
On July 19, 2007, some 20 members of the arts community gathered at The Change You Want to See art space in Williamsburg to hear a presentation by filmmakers Astra Taylor and Laura Hanna about proposed regulations by mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting that would severely restrict the right to film and use a camera in New York City. According to the New York Times, the new rules would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour -- or any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes (including set up time) -- to apply for a city permit and take out $1 million in liability insurance.
The artists’ meeting gave birth to Picture New York, a coalition that has launched a website where artists can learn about the regulations, send protest emails to the mayor’s office and post short videos and photos. Picture New York also plans to participate in a "First Amendment" rally, which has been called for Union Square on Friday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Public outcry has caused the city administration to extend the period for discussion of the new rule to Aug. 3, 2007 -- however, the ordinance could go into effect shortly after that. Even the tabloids have decried the proposed regulations as overly harsh -- with a vehemence normally reserved for pronouncements on the doings of Paris Hilton, the New York Daily News said the proposal is "in a word, nuts," and is written "as if small bands of rogue photographers were running amok."
The New York City Police Department is notoriously ready to restrict public displays of all kinds, especially political dissent. It has an ongoing campaign against Critical Mass, which stages once-a-month bike rides in the city to promote transportation alternatives, and police recently arrested the performance artist Reverend Billy at a bike event for reciting the First Amendment in public. He was charged with "harassment of the NYPD."
In fact, the new set of proposed rules results from an earlier police action against a documentary filmmaker. In May 2005, Rakesh Sharma was detained and had his equipment confiscated after police saw him using a hand-held camera to scout locations for a documentary about New York City cab drivers. The NYPD claimed its action was justified because Sharma lacked a permit, though the filmmaker discovered that the city had no written guidelines for such permits at all. The resulting lawsuit, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, forced the city to clarify its regulations -- leading to the current draconian proposal.
"The existence of this threat is troubling," says Jem Cohen, an artist, filmmaker and member of Picture New York. "It sets a bad precedent, equating art-making with criminal behavior. It will have a chilling effect. But plenty of people are coming forward, making it abundantly clear that they are really concerned about free expression and being able to make a living, which is hard enough already for artists."
As an example of the kind of production that could be quashed by the new rules, Cohen points to his own work, Lost Book Found (1996), a film that explores street life in New York, which brings together years of footage taken by the artist filming alone on city streets (it is in the collection of both the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art). While the mayor’s office focuses on feature films, Cohen says, it ignores needs of smaller operators. "On a certain level," Cohen notes, "they are simply oblivious to the whole tradition of street photography."
Fortunately, others are well aware of this tradition, with a ground-swell of interest from the arts community around the issue, according to Picture New York. Galleries like Pace/McGill (which represents street photographers Robert Frank and Philip-Lorca diCorcia) have expressed interest in lobbying the mayor’s office. Musician Patti Smith -- a photographer herself -- signed Picture New York’s petition in the first day. Other signatories on the list thus far include New Yorker photo critic Vince Aletti, curator Anne Tucker and Hedwig and the Angry Inch filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell, as well as a host of other concerned citizens.
The rally tomorrow looks to be a lively one -- the Picture New York website exhorts supporters to bring "marching bands, gospel choirs, props and signs, cameras, projections, bikes, YOU and YOUR FRIENDS, and the 44 sweet words of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."
THE JEWISH CAROUSEL AT FOLK ART MUSEUM
Early 20th-century Jewish wood-carvers pioneered the American art of the gilded carousel horse? Who knew? The American Folk Art Museum presents "Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel," Oct. 2, 2007-Mar. 23, 2008, an exhibition of approximately 100 works that demonstrate the role that immigrant Jewish artisans played in developing the imagery of the fairground carousel, with the lions, eagles and crowns, among other motifs, moving from the Torah ark to the amusement park. Organized by guest curator Murray Zimiles, the show is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue co-published with Brandeis University Press, and subsequently appears at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, May 24-Sept. 1, 2008.
ART & SNEAKER BENEFIT IN SOUTHAMPTON
Hamptonites, mark your calendars. On Aug. 18, 2007, a panoply of artist-designed sneakers go up for auction at Sneakers del Arte, a benefit for the Ellen P. Hermanson Foundation and Ellen’s Run, supporters of a variety of breast-cancer programs. The event is hosted by Ellen and Chuck Scarborough (he’s a local newscaster), chaired by Dan’s Paper editor Dan Rattiner and designer Betsey Johnson, and features customized sneakers by Ross Bleckner, Dale Chihuly, Katrina Del Mar, Audrey Flack, April Gornik, Billy Joel, Donna Karan, Dennis Oppenheim, Itzhak Perlman and others. Cocktails begin at 6:30 pm; for details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
ART GIFTS TO POMPIDOU
The year-old Centre Pompidou Foundation -- formerly the Georges Pompidou Art & Culture Foundation -- is celebrating its first year of building U.S. support for the Paris art museum, which rose from $1.2 million to more than $10 million in the first 18 months, largely in art gifts. Notable here is foundation chairman Robert M. Rubin’s gift of Jean Prouvé’s Tropical House, a 1950 prototype of a prefab structure intended for use in the French colonies, now on view on the Pompidou’s fifth-floor terrace. Other gifts of the foundation include works by Larry Bell, Philip Guston, Toba Khedoori, Agnes Martin, Nancy Spero and Hannah Wilke.
RICKEY RETRO AT MICHIGAN PARK
"George Rickey: A Retrospective," Sept. 28-Dec. 31, 2007, brings approximately 50 kinetic works, including 20 outdoor sculptures, to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich. The exhibition originated at the Vero Beach Museum of Art in Vero Beach, Fla., where it appeared Feb. 3-May 20, 2007. George Rickey died in 2002 at age 95.
DO YOU HAVE A "BRAIN" FOR EXIT ART?
The pioneering New York alternative space Exit Art is inviting proposals for an exhibition about 21st-century neuroscience. "Brain," as the exhibition is called, focuses on "the often complex and ephemeral relationship between cognition and emotion. . . . the engine of creativity. . . . the vital organ of faith, the source of all conception." Deadline for proposals is Oct. 15, 2007. For details, see www.exitart.org.
"Killing Time," the current show at Exit Art, features works by over 70 contemporary Cuban artists, and closes on July 28, 2007.
EXPANSION FOR CROCKER ART MUSEUM
The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, Ca., has broken ground for a 125,000-square-foot expansion designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates. The new wing, scheduled to open in early 2010, more than triples the size of the present facility, and includes a new 7,000-square-foot courtyard. The museum has raised $82 million in a $100-million capital campaign to fund the building. Currently on view at the museum is "Echoes of the Earth: Ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu," May 18-Aug. 19, 2007, and "Skinned: The Art of Robert Cremean," May 25-Sept. 9, 2007.
MFA BOSTON BUYS NEIGHBORING BUILDING
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has bought the neighboring 107,000-square foot Beaux Arts Forsyth Institute building and its 1.6-acre lot for an undisclosed price. The museum, which is in the middle of a $300-million expansion, has no immediate plans for the site. Under the terms of the deal, the Forsyth Institute, which specializes in dentistry and oral surgery, can remain in the building for three years while it seeks new facilities.
MURAL FELLOWS AT NATIONAL ACADEMY
The winners of the 2007 fellowship awards for mural designs awarded by the Edwin Austin Abbey Fund for Mural Painting are having an exhibition of their works at the National Academy Museum, Aug. 3-31, 2007. Winners of the $1,200 fellowships, which are coordinated by painter Grace Graupe-Pillard, are Martin Brecht, Michael Eade, Norma Greenwood, Keir Johnston, Katherine Leisen, Annysa Ng, Waylon Tait, Fumiko Toda, Eugenie Tung, Yuko Ueda, Julio Valdez and Marguerite White.
DRAWING CONTEST AT LOCATION ONE
Location One, the artist-residency nonprofit at 26 Greene Street in SoHo, is kicking off the fall season with a drawing contest -- a "Lunar Drawing Contest," in fact. Under the auspices of Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, participants make either digital or analog renderings of a 3D model of the moon, which are then hung on the gallery wall. The event begins on Sept. 6, 2007, and a panel of judges picks three winners on Sept. 27, with each winner receiving a deed for a plot of land on the moon. To register, see www.location1.org
CHAMBERS FINE ART OPENS BEIJING BRANCH
Chambers Fine Art, the contemporary art gallery founded in New York in 2000 by Christophe W. Mao, is opening a branch in Beijing designed by artist and architect Ai Weiwei. The 8,000-square-foot, red-brick building, which includes a courtyard, is in the city’s Cao Changdi District. The inaugural exhibition, titled "Net" and organized by Wu Hung, features many of the artists from the gallery stable, including Hong Hao, Hong Lei, Lu Shengzhong, Qiu Zhijie, Rong Rong, Shi Jinsong, Song Dong, Wang Jianwei, Wang Tiande, Wu Jian’an and Yin Xiuzhen. The show opens on Sept. 20, 2007.