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Artnet News
Aug. 28, 2008 

On a sunny day, Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls are a delightfully refreshing spectacle, oversized avant-garde versions of the classical urban fountain. From the point of view of the local flora, however, the four artificial waterfalls set up along the New York harbor at the East River by the Public Art Fund are less of a success. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, about a month after the project’s June debut, residents near the cascades at the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn piers started to notice that area plants were suffering a premature autumn, wilting, turning yellow and losing their leaves. Experts have confirmed that the damage is due to salt water vapor from the $13.5 million art project (water for the cascades is drawn from the river, which is part sea water).

Most effected has been the garden of the River Café at 1 Water Street, near the Brooklyn Bridge cascade. The 32-year-old grove of trees is the Café’s signature outdoor attraction, and has notably begun to wither under the influence of the falls. The café’s gardener, Maureen Andraiese, told the Eagle that she had warned the Public Art Fund beforehand of the danger, and a representative had told her that the effect would be negligible as "the winds are usually northerly, and if anything goes south, the waterfalls will be turned off." Andraiese said that cars parked around the Café were covered with "a coating of hard salt" every day because of the spray. Defoliation is also reported on trees along Montague Street in Brooklyn. The Public Art Fund has retained the services of Dom’s Tree Service to help alleviate the damage until the end of the project.

The reappointment of Nicholas Serota as director of the Tate Galleries has caused a minor scandal in London. According to the Independent, the 62-year-old Serota, who has served three seven-year contracts as director, was appointed a "permanent employee" of the institution by the Tate board on July 9, 2008, essentially giving him the job for life. The move was made after the board realized that law that insisted on temporary appointments was out of date. A noted champion of contemporary art, Serota has many critics in the conservative wing of the British art establishment. The "controversy," however, stems mainly from the fact that the Tate board decision was made without the knowledge of British prime minister Gordon Brown, whose approval is apparently required by 1992 Museums and Galleries Act. A representative of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport told the Independent that Brown "does not know anything about this as far as I'm aware."

On the eve of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, a local billboard company has canceled a project by New York photographer Suzanne Opton that would have posted large-scale photos of soldiers on five billboards in the Twin Cities. The striking images, which are visible at, feature unadorned close-ups of men’s faces, lying prone against a flat surface and looking at or near the camera. The billboard firm, CBS Outdoor, said the photographs looked like deceased soldiers, and "could be perceived as being disrespectful to the men and women in our armed forces."

On the contrary, Opton said her portraits are "vivid reminders of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers" serving the country. The difference, she said, is that they are shown in a vulnerable pose. A billboard in Denver, cosponsored by the Denver MCA, was erected without controversy; Opton has additional plans to take her "Soldier Billboard Project" to Houston, Atlanta and Miami.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has unveiled its reinstalled pre-Columbian art collection in three new galleries designed by L.A. artist Jorge Pardo. According to a report by Holland Cotter in the New York Times, the new galleries "look like a nightclub interior," characterized by "complicated colors (yellowish burgundy and electric green), zany little chandeliers and thick curtains of a taffeta-type fabric." The actual objects are presented under glass in streamlined, corrugated cases and on plinths made of stacked sheets of fiberboard cut in irregular biomorphic shapes. Why, Cotter asks, are "self-aggrandizing designs like Mr. Pardo’s," in which the art is lost in the décor, "being applied to non-Western objects but only rarely to their Western counterparts?"

Chicago artist Dawoud Bey has made a color photo portrait of fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama -- "the next president of the United States of America," according to Bey -- and is offering the work for sale on his blog. Produced in an edition of 50, the 30 x 24 in. archival pigment print is signed and numbered. The first 25 in the edition are $2,500, after which the price goes up to $5,000. Bey has earmarked a portion of the proceeds for the Obama campaign.

New York artist Angel Orensanz, the sculptor who founded the Angel Orensanz Foundation in a historic former synagogue building on the Lower East Side, has received the Grand Award Open 08 in the 11th Open Exhibition in Venice, Aug. 27-Sept. 28, 2008. The prize-winning Forest Park is a chaotic arrangement of shards of fabric strung up in the trees along the Lido waterfront. The show of sculptures and installations, organized by Paolo de Grandis and Carlotta Scarpa, features representatives of 13 countries. It is held in conjunction with the Venice Film Festival.

Amsterdam’s Witzenhausen Gallery, founded in 1989 by Jacob Witzenhausen, opens a new satellite branch in New York City on Sept. 10, 2008. Located at 547 West 27th Street in the Chelsea art district, Witzenhausen debuts with "Hexameron," a show of photos by Dutch artist Hendrik Kerstens that, according to the gallery, bring to mind the paintings of Johannes Vermeer. For more info, see

Five artists have received $20,000 Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowships for 2008 from the Central Indiana Community Foundation. The winners are Anthony Luensman, Michael Lyons, Brian Priest, LaRinda Meinburg and Letitia Quesenberry. Efroymson awards are open to residents of Indiana or the "Metropolitan Statistical Areas" of Louisville or Cincinnati. More information is available at

JOHN RUSSELL, 1919-2008
John Russell, 89, New York-based English art critic remembered for his elegant style and championship of modern British art, died at a hospice in the Bronx on Aug. 23. Russell studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford’s Magdalen College, joining the staff of the Tate Gallery as an intern in 1940. During World War II, he worked for British Naval Intelligence. He was ultimately recommended to write the culture beat for the Sunday Times of London by a fellow Naval Intelligence officer, novelist Ian Fleming. As art critic for the Times, he became an influential champion of figures such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin, R. B. Kitaj and Bridget Riley. In 1974, Russell was hired at the New York Times by chief art critic Hilton Kramer, going on to become lead critic for the paper from 1982 to 1990. According to the paper’s own obituary, at the New York Times, Russell was known for his Old World style and "fluent, generally laudatory reviews."

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