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Artnet News
Aug. 16, 2007 

With 55,000 square feet of gallery space, San Francisco’s proposed new Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio would be roughly 10 percent larger than the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, currently the city’s most prominent arts institution. Announced last week, the endeavor is intended to provide a home for the 1,000-piece modern art collection of Donald and Doris Fisher, the San Francisco billionaires who co-founded the Gap clothing chain. The collection, which currently languishes out of public view in the couple’s private homes and the Gap corporate offices, contains an enviable roster of Blue Chip artists including Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Claes Oldenburg, Gerhard Richter and Richard Serra, and will provide the city with a new landmark. Yet a number of prominent voices have already cried foul, citing a variety of concerns.

Chief among these is whether the Presidio -- a former military base, now scenic attraction near the Golden Gate Bridge -- is the right place for the mammoth new museum, which will weigh in at 100,000 square feet in all. While saying that the idea of a public home for the Fisher collection was "wonderful news" for the city, the San Francisco Chronicle immediately editorialized against the project, arguing that there was little chance that a showpiece museum could respect the historic architecture of the site. Environmental impact is another concern, given that there is limited public transportation to the area, and car access only through the residential Marina district, guaranteeing increased clutter. Both objections are significant, since the core mission of the Presidio Trust -- a public-private partnership set up in 1996 to administer the land outside the jurisdiction of the National Park Service -- is giving visitors "the opportunity to gain a broader understanding of the Presidio, its place in American history, and the plants and wildlife which once thrived throughout the region."

According to a variety of reports, the Fishers had several opportunities to make a public home for their collection in more accessible locales. The SFMoMA is reported to have offered to build a special wing for the Fisher collection on the model of Eli Broad’s addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, while the de Young Museum said that it was also willing to undertake an expansion to accommodate the collection. According to Donald Fisher, the decision to build a new museum instead "is about one issue: space" -- but other reports suggest that an equal consideration was control, with the Fishers demanding that no curators or administrators come between them and their art.

Because of this issue, it seems particularly significant that Donald Fisher was one of the founding members of the Presidio Trust. Under the committee’s watch, the park has become increasingly focused on fund-generating schemes in the name of financial sustainability, and Fisher helped oversee what was previously one of the Trust’s most controversial decisions, turning over 900,000 square feet of the park to George Lucas to build a commercial office park (it opened in 2005), offering him a $60-million tax break in the process. Donald Fisher’s museum seems destined to benefit from the same cozy conditions; in the words of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the attraction of the Presidio location for Fisher might well be that "the museum would be on public land, but he'd run it himself, in his own way, with no public oversight."

The Presidio Trust is accepting alternative proposals for "cultural centers" until November 9 (they are required to by their charter), and Fisher’s proposal still has to undergo an environmental review. However, given Fisher’s tight relation to the Trust and his political ties -- he is one of the "country's leading campaign donors," particularly to Republican causes, according to the Chronicle -- it seems likely that it is a done deal.

The Russia-born artist Vladimir Kush -- who sells his own Surrealist-inspired work at his own Kush Fine Art, with locations in Lahaina, Hi., Las Vegas, Nev., Laguna Beach, Ca. and New York -- filed a copyright infringement suit on Aug. 6, 2007, in Manhattan District Court against the pop star Pink. Kush alleges that the music video for Pink’s current single plagiarizes imagery from his own painting Countes Erotiques. On the surface, the claim is pretty straightforward -- Kush’s painting depicts a nude woman in red stockings whose body is merged with the spine of a book, while the Pink video opens with a very similar red-stockinged woman-book swinging open -- but these cases are notoriously slippery. The current precedent, set in Blanch v. Koons, says that something can be classified as "fair use" only if it is deemed to have been used in a "transformative" manner [see Artnet News, Jan. 19, 2006].

The summer doldrums are about to end and the Art Parade is here! The third-annual event in Soho, set to head out Sept. 8, 2007, at 4 pm, looks to be the biggest yet with more than 700 participants and 75 separate art projects. Expect individual contributions from Tauba Auerbach, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Matthew Rodriguez, The Dazzle Dancers, Kenny Scharf, COCO’s Demoiselles, Trevor Stone and the Conundrums. As usual, the parade is sponsored by the winning team of Deitch Projects, Creative Time and Paper Magazine. The route is set to begin on Houston and follow West Broadway, ending on Grand Street.

The Brooklyn Museum has acquired Toland Grinnell’s Pied-a-Terre -- last seen at Mary Boone’s uptown space in 2001 -- and is putting it on long-term display in their fourth-floor galleries. The project consists of 20 luxury suitcases, each inscribed with the artist’s custom "TG" monogram, which transform into a complete living environment -- including a stove, a sink, a tableware canteen, a wine rack and recycling containers, among other things -- and is considered a commentary on the twin themes of excess and camping.

Every gallery-goer has had the experience of having a whole show disrupted by one cacophonous sound art piece. Artist and deejay Christian Marclay is tackling just this problem, bringing his mix-master skills to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, curating a variety of different sound-based art pieces "selected so that they can share the same resonant space and interact like the various instruments of a musical ensemble." The exhibition, titled "Ensemble," runs Sept. 7-Dec. 16, 2007.

Featured in the show are works by Terry Adkins, Doug Aitken, Darren Almond, John M. Armleder, Fia Backström, Harry Bertoia, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Angela Bulloch, Martin Creed, David Ellis, Mineko Grimmer, Tim Hawkinson, Jim Hodges, Evan Holloway, Pierre Huyghe, Paul Ramirez-Jonas, Nina Katchadourian, Martin Kersels, Jon Kessler, Katja Kölle, Yoko Ono, Dennis Oppenheim, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Carolee Schneemann, Noah Sheldon, Yoshi Wada and Angela White, among others. Good luck to Marclay getting all these artists to sing in harmony!

David Levi Strauss has been appointed chair of the MFA department in art criticism and writing at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Levi Strauss, who often writes for Artforum and Aperture, comes to SVA via Bard College, where he has taught since 2001.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, is offering 40 days without admission fees, Sept. 29-Nov. 14, 2007. The initiative debuts alongside "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967," Sept. 29, 2007-Jan. 6, 2008, and coincides throughout with the museum’s "Collection Highlights" show, Aug. 18, 2007-June 8, 2008, featuring work ranging from Francis Bacon and Bruce Nauman to Matthew Barney and Jeff Wall. General admission to the MCA is normally $10.

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