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Artnet News
July 6, 2006 

Connoisseurs of summer art-fair action are heading down to Atlanta next week for "Embrace: The Fine Art Fair of the National Black Arts Festival," July 13-16, 2006. Featuring some 20 galleries, the new fair sets up in the 24,000-square-foot Mason Murer Fine Art space at 199 Armour Drive. The 19-year-old NBAF has long had a successful artist market at Greenbriar Mall, but "Embrace" marks a decisive move into the art world, serving as a "museum-quality" affair featuring high-end African and African-American artists.

Gallery participants include 70th Art Gallery (New York), Aaron Galleries (Chicago), Avisca Fine Art (Atlanta), Bill Hodges Gallery (New York), Charles Jones African Art (Wilmington), Dolan / Maxwell (Philadelphia), G.R. NíNamdi Gallery (Chicago, New York, Detroit), Hearne Fine Art (Little Rock), In the Gallery (Nashville), Joysmith Gallery (Memphis), Mason Murer Fine Art (Atlanta), Nicole Gallery (Chicago), Noel Gallery (New York), Parish Gallery (Georgetown), Sandler Hudson Gallery (Atlanta), Savacou Gallery (New York), Solomon Projects (Atlanta), Vargas Fine Art (Lanham, Md.) and Wertz Contemporary (Atlanta).

The NBAFís director Stephanie Hughley has spoken of a larger push to make the yearly Atlanta event a platform to promote the culture of the African diaspora internationally, along the lines of Senegalís Dakíart biennial in Dakar. "Embrace," the title of the exposition, is "about embracing a variety of cultures," says Mark Karelson, director of Murer gallery, which is participating in the fair as exhibitor with a selection of Geeís Bend quilts.

Other Atlanta galleries have put together exhibitions coordinated with the fair. Wertz Contemporary is presenting "Fabricated Moments," June 2-July 22, 2006, a collaborative installation by American Pat Ward Williams and South African Sue Williamson examining the concept of integration in South Africa and the U.S. (Wertz is also an exhibitor at ďEmbrace,Ē where it will be showing photos by French photographer Jean-Dominique Burton.) And Sandler Hudson has "In Celebration of the Black Woman," a group show including works by about a dozen male and female artists.

Elsewhere, Hammonds House Gallery and Resource Center for African American Art, founded in 1988 and specializing in art of the African diaspora, presents a show of works by Elizabeth Catlett, July 16-Sept. 17, 2006, while the Clark Atlanta University Galleries are presenting a show by Georgia artist Freddie Styles. At the contemporary art space Eyedrum is a show of "The Carbonist School," a group that includes Greg Tate, William Cordova, Kojo Griffin and several others. And the High Museum is getting into the act with "Paper Trails," July 1-Sept. 10, 2006, a show of some 50 works on paper by African American artists.

"Embrace" also is hosting the Pan African Film Festival. For more info, see

Rirkrit Tiravanija
, opera director? Thatís right, the celebrated Thai artist, who specializes in social gatherings -- notably, cooking and serving meals of curry and rice to his willing audience -- has directed his first opera, which premieres as part of the Lincoln Center Festival 2006, July 28-30, 2006. Ramakien: A Rak Opera is described as a "genre-busting rock-theater piece" that enlists Thai rock stars, dancers and DJs to perform the "Floating Princess" episode from the Ramakien, the Thai national epic. "The opera features entire rock bands playing the parts of individual actors," Tiravanija said during a press conference. "My specialty is bringing people together -- and thatís basically what I did here."

Indeed. The stars of Ramakien include Thai vocalist and guitarist Sek Loso, who performs the music for the role of Rama; Thai diva Palmy Panchareon, who sings the role of Princess Sita; the indie-rock group Pru, which provides music for the role of Hanuman, the white monkey king; and the Modern Dog band, which performs music for the role of the demon princess Benjakai. The demon king Totsakan is voiced by downtown New York guitarist Arto Lindsay performing with the Bangkok "doctors of dubology," the Photo Sticker Machine.

Music director of Ramakien is Bruce Gaston, who currently heads a pair of Fong Naam orchestras at two dinner theaters in Bangkok. The choreographer is Pichet Klunchun, who also dances the role of Benjakai. Lighting is in the hands of architect Jiro Endo and stage designer Wit Pimkanchanapong. The work is produced by former Beastie Boy promoter Tim Carr.

The Lincoln Center Festival also features the world premiere of choreographer Elizabeth Strebís STREB vs. GRAVITY, the New York premiere of Bill T. Jonesí new multimedia work Blind Date, and the New York premiere of Grendel, the opera written by Elliot Goldenthal and directed by Julie Taymor. For tickets and more info, see

Iconoclastic Columbia University art historian James Beck has seen the Metropolitan Museumís Madonna and Child (ca. 1300) by Duccio di Buoninsegna and says itís not good. According to a report in the Times of London, Beck believes that the work -- an 8 x 11 in. panel painting purchased by the Met for a reported $45 million in 2004 -- was actually painted in the 1880s. Beck ridiculed the workís "low quality," noting that the Christ Child has an arm that looks "like a stump" and a "gourd-like head." Beck notes that the famed parapet that throws the picture into three dimensions is not found in any other works by Duccio, his followers or in all of Tuscany. Beck promises a more thorough look at the controversy in The Crisis of Connoisseurship: From Duccio to Raphael, forthcoming this fall. The museum says thereís no reason to doubt the authenticity of the picture.

The Portland Art Museum is facing some serious budget woes, according to a report by the Associated Press. Costs for the museumís renovation of a historic Masonic Temple as its new home have ballooned from $33 million to $45 million, and PAM is trying to convince donors to pony up for immediate use some $22 million originally pledged for the long-range capital campaign. The institution has exhausted a $20-million line of credit from Bank of America, taken out two years ago to cover the "near-term expenses" of the project.

The PAM board has only gone public with the overruns this week, though the renovated temple opened in October 2005. The pricetag is at the center of a museum dispute with its original architects, the Boston firm of Ann Beha Architects. And yet, the local Willamette Week newspaper notes that the museum has not pursued court action against the projectís general contractor Hoffman Construction, which initially guaranteed a price ceiling of $25 before pushing through change orders that raised costs to $33 million. Eric Hoffman, co-director of the construction company, sits on the PAM board, and a wing of the museum bares his name.

The High Museum of Art premieres "Morris Louis Now: An American Master Revisited," Nov. 4, 2006-Jan. 24, 2007, the first show of the Washington Color School painterís work mounted at a major U.S. museum since 1986. Presenting approximately 30 canvases made during 1951-62, the show is organized by High Museum curator Jeffrey Grove in collaboration with the artistís widow, Marcella Louis Brenner, and independent scholar Diane Upright. The show also appears at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Feb. 17-May 6, 2007.

Born Morris Louis Bernstein in Baltimore in 1912, Louis worked for the WPA Federal Art Project in New York City in the late 1930s before returning to Baltimore in 1940. In 1952 he moved to Washington, D.C., where he met Kenneth Noland and, inspired by a 1953 visit to Helen Frankenthalerís New York studio, began experimenting with poured pigment. Major exhibitions of his work have been mounted at the Guggenheim Museum (1963), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1967), the National Collection of Fine Arts (1976) and the Museum of Modern Art (1986).

Heading south anytime soon? New York post-feminist painter Lisa Yuskavage is currently having an exhibition of her work at the Museo Tamayo Arte ContemporŠneo in Mexico City. Featuring 18 paintings and watercolors made during 1992-2005, the show is on view June 22-Sept. 17, 2006, and is accompanied by a catalogue with texts by Tobias Ostrander and Christian Viveros-Faune. After showing with dealer Marianne Boesky for many years, Yuskavage recently joined the David Zwirner gallery, and has a show of new work opening there on Oct. 18, 2006. An exhibition of new, small paintings is slated for the same time at Zwirner & Wirth on East 69th Street.

Who says that thereís no life after Hollywood? Though more widely known as an actor, Martin Mull has long been an accomplished artist, and a touring show of his paintings kicked off just last month. "Adventures in a Temperate Climate: A Retrospective of Paintings by Martin Mull," which includes a catalogue with an essay written by Edward Hopper authority Gale Levin, debuted at the Las Vegas Art Museum, June 11-Aug. 25, 2006. Subsequent stops include the San Diego State University Art Gallery, Sept. 11-Oct. 7, 2006, and the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, Oct. 28, 2006-Jan. 21, 2007. The show features 44 paintings dating from 1984-2006. "Mullís works focus on a critique of modern culture," said Las Vegas Art Museum director Libby Lumpkin, who co-organized the show with Tina Yapelli, director of the gallery in San Diego.

"Kim Jones: A Retrospective," featuring works spanning more than 30 years by the celebrated performance artist, opens at the University at Buffalo Art Galleries, Oct. 19-Dec. 17, 2006. Jones launched his career in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s with performances as Mudman, a shaman-like figure covered with mud and organic substances and wearing a cumbersome structure of mud and sticks on his back. In the 1980s he moved to New York, where his works have focused on the Vietnam War. The exhibition is organized by UB Art Gallery curator Sandra Firmin and Julie Joyce of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in Los Angeles, where it subsequently appears.

Wisconsin artist David Lenz has won first prize in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2006, which includes a $25,000 cash award as well as a portrait commission for the Smithsonian Institution National Portrait Galleryís permanent collection. The winning portrait, Sam and the Perfect World, is a Photorealist image of the artistís son standing under a bright sun in the Wisconsin countryside. Jurors in the competition -- some 4,000 entries were submitted -- included curator Trevor Fairbrother, Studio Museum in Harlem director Thelma Golden, artist Sidney Goodman, art critic Katy Siegel, NPG director Marc Pachter, NPG deputy director Carolyn K. Carr and NPG curator Brandon Fortune.

The new prize is named for Virginia Outwin Boochever, a former NPG volunteer who endowed the program. An exhibition of 51 works, selected from the 4,000-plus submitted, is already on view at the NPG, July 1, 2006-Feb. 19, 2007. Images of the exhibited works are online at -- and visitors to the site can vote on their favorite to win a "Peopleís Choice Award," to be announced on Sept. 15, 2006. Check it out. The show includes works by Steve DeFrank, Sam Messer and Zak Smith, Kathleen Giljeís portrait of Robert Rosenblum, a sculpture of a Large Head by Nina Levy, a painting of a topless Anthony Haden-Guest by Carle Shi and a portrait of Alex Katz by Brenda Zlamany.

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