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Artnet News
Sept. 4, 2007 

“Green” marketing is the new thing for corporate branding, and the work of neo-light-and-space artist Olafur Eliasson appears to be custom-made to merge high-end esthetics with an environmental consciousness. Thus, when the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opens the exhibition, “Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson,” Sept. 8, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008, it also debuts the artist’s own version of BMW’s experimental HR hydrogen-powered car.

Dubbed Your mobile expectations: BMW H2R project (2007), Eliasson’s BMW “art car” looks something like a car-sized roly-poly bug made of ice and steel mesh. But unlike other BMW art cars, this one is never going to see a racetrack. “Heavily weighted by its frozen mantle,” as the museum describes it, the finished ice car can only exist at minus 6 degrees Celsius or below. At SFMoMA, it is housed in a room-sized freezer in the architecture and design galleries.

BMW originally developed its hydrogen-powered H2R race car to attain speed records using “regenerative fuel.” Eliasson, who has been working on the project since 2005, stripped the car of its factory chassis and devised his own. The result is described by SFMOMA design curator Henry Urbach as a comment on “the relation between car design and global warming.”

Eliasson’s “climate car” is the 17th entry in the BMW Art Car Collection, which was founded in 1975 and ranges from Robert Rauschenberg’s BMW 635 CSi car, covered with images of classic art and swamp grass, to the world’s first “Aboriginal Art Motorcycle,” painted by Biggibilla Gummaroi on a BMW K1200 RS sportsbike. Jenny Holzer created a suite of “art car maxims” in 1999 [see The Art Car at Le Mans, Jan. 19, 2006]. Eliasson’s BMW is to be housed with the rest of the racers in the BMW Museum in Munich.

The fall art season gets off to a good natured start in Brussels as dealer Xavier Hufkens presents a show of new sculptures and photographs by Erwin Wurm, the Vienna-born artist known since the 1980s for his comic “One Minute Sculptures” as well as other slapstick objects that stretch definitions of reality. Among the new works are life-sized human figures, one cast in silvery nickel-plated bronze, with oversized “goose bumps” representing physical manifestations of emotional states. The show also includes sculptures resembling potatoes in woolen pullovers, concrete fountains shaped like various hand gestures, and a series of photos on the theme of Hamlet. The exhibition is on view Sept. 13-Oct. 27, 2007.

"He only recognizes art with his wallet,” Damien Hirst once said of collector Charles Saatchi, “he believes he can affect art values with buying power, and he still believes he can do it." The quote reverberated ironically as it was announced that Hirst himself was part of the investment group that is purchasing For the Love of God, his $100-million platinum-and-diamond skull, recently on view at the White Cube gallery in London.

Hirst’s involvement in the purchase (as well as the sale) raised immediate questions about the deal, with Bloomberg reporter Linda Sandler suggesting that perhaps “Hirst hasn't yet found a final buyer for his most expensive artwork, at a time when hedge fund managers and other art collectors have lost money in the credit markets.” Several years ago, when Saatchi sold off his collection of Hirst works, the artist teamed up with his gallery, with much fanfare, to repurchase his own works -- a move that no doubt boosted his market value, not unlike when corporations buy back their own stock to raise their share price.

“Three to four weeks of paperwork” remain before the transaction is completed, said Frank Dunphy, the artist’s partner and business manager. Dunphy declined to identify other investors involved in the purchase. Hirst is requiring that the object be exhibited internationally as part of the deal, according to the report on Bloomberg.

Hirst’s recent show at White Cube was reported to have totaled $262 million in sales. For the Love of God cost Hirst an estimated $20 million to fabricate. Asked if the gallery had retained any stake in the skull, a spokesperson replied, ”Not that I'm aware of.''

In other Hirst news, Gagosian gallery in Chelsea is hosting the runway debut of the artist’s fashion designs for Levi Strauss & Co. The 2008 “Warhol Factory X Levi's X Damien Hirst'' collection bows at the gallery on Sept. 8, 2007, during “Fashion Week” in New York. The collection reportedly includes a $4,000 pair of jeans covered in a Swarovski crystal skull patterns; $375 jeans made of multiple torn segments of vintage Levis, reassembled with zippers for a “bondage look”; a $900 motorcycle jacket featuring the design from the artist’s dot paintings; and $100 T-shirts with overlapping images of Hirst works and Andy Warhol works.

The most striking aspect of the story, however, is that apparently it was Hirst who contacted the jeans company about the collaboration, rather than the other way around, calling label's creative director Adrian Nyman after viewing a collection of Warhol-themed gear at Barney’s in New York.

In an offer described as coming “out of left field,” Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton has written directly to Tennessee attorney general Robert Cooper, offering to buy a 50 percent stake in the art collection of Fisk University in Nashville for $30 million. According to an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, Walton is proposing that the 101-piece collection, given to the college in 1949 by Georgia O’Keeffe, would remain at Fisk for half the year, and be shown in its entirety for the other half of the year at the new Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, Ark.

Walton’s proposal comes in the middle of a long-running dispute between the attorney general, Fisk and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M. The financially strained Fisk, a historically black university, had hoped to sell the O’Keeffe masterpiece Radiator Building (1927) and a painting by Marsden Hartley to raise funds for new staff and facilities. The museum, which represents the O’Keeffe estate, opposed the sale on the grounds that the terms of O’Keeffe’s gift bar the school from selling the works. Though Radiator Building could be worth $30 million or more on the open market, a proposal heading for a Tennessee court on Sept. 8, 2007, would allow the museum to buy the O’Keeffe for its collection for $7.5 million, and let the university sell the Hartley to the highest bidder.

Both the museum and the university support the settlement, but Walton’s bid adds a new element of uncertainty. Stay tuned.

Two new art and antiques fairs have been announced for the United Arab Emirates by Turret Middle East Limited, a publishing and exposition company based in Britain. The Abu Dhabi International Fine Art and Antiques Fair, Nov. 21-24, 2007, is slated to present approximately 100 dealers at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, adjacent to the marina commercial district, and only 15 minutes from the airport. The Dubai International Fine Art and Antiques Fair, Dec. 12-15, 2007, also presents 100 dealers at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center. Director of both fairs is Fran Foster. For more details, see 

The District of Columbia art season kicks off with a major new projection by artist Jenny Holzer, who plans to project texts by John F. Kennedy (on art, artists and society) and Theodore Roosevelt (on conservation and environmental protection) from the Kennedy Center Terrace onto the Potomac River and Roosevelt Island. The project is set for Sept. 13-16, 2007, and is organized by Street Scenes: Projects for DC, a group founded in 2006 by Nora Halpern, a freelance curator and executive at Americans for the Arts, and Welmoed Laanstra, a curator and public arts project coordinator for Arlington County, Va.

The new 368-page catalogue for the new Richard Prince retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, Sept. 28, 2007-Jan. 9, 2008, features a text by writer and critic Glenn O’Brien that is more than appropriate to his famously ironical subject -- a series of 20 interviews with experts in fields related to various aspects of Prince’s art, including comic Phyllis Diller and former Hells Angels head Sonny Barger. Other interview subjects included John Waters, David Steinberg, New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff, former Leg Show editor Diane Hanson and a Ford motor company automobile designer.

As for Diller, O’Brien notes that the 90-year-old comic, who lives in Westwood, is also a painter, and paints every night in her home studio while listening to jazz.

The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum has gone online with a vengeance, adding to the museum website an online digital archive of feminist art, a virtual tour of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, and a feminist timeline. The Feminist Art Base includes more than 125 artists’ profiles so far, including images, biographical data and more. In addition to the virtual tour, the Dinner Party Database , which is developed as a wiki, allows scholars to add content to or edit the entries for each of the 1,038 women represented in the artwork. The Feminist Timeline is designed to be “the most comprehensive and global record of woman’s achievements.”

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