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Artnet News
July 3, 2008 

Heading to Beijing for the Summer Olympics, Aug. 8-24, 2008? Art fans should be sure to stop by Galerie Urs Meile’s outpost in the Chaoyang district to see Li Zhangyang’s ambitious ‘Rent’ -- Rent Collection Yard (2007), Apr. 26-Aug. 24, 2008, a sculptural fantasia described as "a humorous and subjective look at the Chinese contemporary art scene." The parody art piece features 34 life-sized colored fiberglass figures, each a portrait of a famous art-world figure, posed in a configuration that echoes a well-known 1965 socialist realist sculptural tableaux, the Rent Collection Courtyard, depicting the landlord class’ oppression of the peasantry.

In Li’s version, the "Dying of a Martyr" group of figures, for instance, is remade featuring Art Basel director Samuel Keller and Chinese art star Cai Guo-Qiang, carrying between them the body of the late Harald Szeemann. Another group has, among other figures, Urs Meile’s Beijing director Nataline Colonnello as a submissive peasant woman, artist Ai Weiwei getting his feet rubbed by servants and Meile himself as a flinty, shirtless guard with two pistols in his trousers. In the grouping titled "History Observed," Joseph Beuys seems to be giving a lesson to an enthroned Mao Zedong. Curator Gao Minglu is imprisoned in a cage, while artists He Yunchang, Zhang Huan and Li himself all feature as onlookers.

Li’s version of Rent Collection Courtyard gets an added kick of irony from the original image’s recent history in the art world. New York-based artist Cai Guo-Qiang appropriated it himself for the 1999 Venice Biennale, where craftsmen made a life-sized replica in clay, winning Cai the Golden Lion. Cai’s version provoked much controversy in China, where the artists behind the original propaganda piece condemned Cai for sullying their intellectual property. Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard, as the sculpture is titled, was recreated for Cai’s recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York -- a show that is, in fact, traveling to the National Museum in Beijing to coincide with the Olympics (for which Cai is choreographing the opening ceremony), Aug. 18-Sept. 2, 2008. Yet according to press reports, the Beijing version of the retrospective is omitting Cai’s Rent Collection Courtyard because of the controversy.

The Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria may be history, but the 25-year-long collaboration between New York’s favorite contemporary art museum and the world’s biggest tobacco company lives on in book form. In collaboration with Yale University Press, the Whit is publishing an anthology of exhibitions and performances at the art space, which closed earlier this year after the tobacco giant decided to leave New York for Richmond, Va., and end its long record as corporate arts patron of first resort [see "Undone at Altria," Oct. 31, 2007]. Titled Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria: 25 Years, the book boasts a foreword by Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg and an introduction by curator Shamim M. Momin, the most recent director of the branch.

As for a history of art-world protest against the notion of tobacco companies funding the arts to improve their public image, well, there’s always the internet [see "Artnet News," Mar. 22, 2001].

Clara Kim has been appointed director and curator of the gallery at Redcat, the theater and arts center operated in downtown Los Angeles by the California Institute of the Arts. Kim has been on the Redcat staff since it was opened in 2003, and also writes for Art Asia Pacific and Contemporary Magazine.

John S. Stanley has been named deputy director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the post that traditionally oversees the behind-the-scenes management of the museum. Stanley has been chief operating officer and deputy director at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, since 1995.

Freelance curator Kathrin Rhomberg has been selected as curator of the 6th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, which is scheduled to open at Berlin’s KW Center for Contemporary Art and other sites in spring 2010. Rhomberg co-organized Manifesta3 in Ljubljana in 2000. The biennial’s budget is set at €2.5 million.

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