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Artnet News
Sept. 19, 2008 

Los Angeles photographer Jill Greenberg has had to shut down her studio and hire personal security as a result of an art stunt that pictured Republican presidential candidate John McCain as a bloodthirsty human shark.

It all began when Greenberg, an accomplished commercial photographer and photo artist represented by New York’s Clampart and L.A.’s Fahey/Klein Gallery, was hired by the Atlantic magazine to shoot a cover for its October 2008 issue to illustrate a story about McCain by noted "liberal hawk" Jeffrey Goldberg. The artist, who describes herself as a "hardcore Democrat," accepted the assignment and shot a conventional portrait of McCain. However, during the 15-minute Las Vegas photo shoot, she also used a trick lighting set-up to snap a low-angle shot of McCain, emphasizing his haggard features and casting a horror-movie shadow behind him.

The Atlantic, of course, opted for the conventional gauzy portrait. However, Greenberg, who retains copyright to her photographs, took the image and posted it with a series of doctored photos on her website, Subtle they are not, though they certainly highlight some embarrassing facts about the candidate. The photograph that shows McCain with bloody shark fangs bears the phrase, "I Am a Bloody Warmonger" over his head. The comment can be read as an oblique reference to McCain’s more than 20 bombing missions over North Vietnam, in which his "heroism," as Alexander Cockburn writes on, "consisted of raining high explosive on peasants from 30,000 feet."

Another Greenberg photograph shows McCain with closed eyes and lipstick-smeared lips, beneath a caption that reads "It Was Really Fun to Cheat on My Car-Injury Disabled First Wife." McCain has admitted to having extramarital affairs in the 1970s following his return from Vietnam, and has accepted blame for the end of his marriage. Another portrait is captioned with the statement, "I Called My Wife a Cunt in Front of Reporters," referring to a notorious 1992 incident with his current wife, Cindy McCain.

Still other photos show a chimpanzee defecating on McCain’s head, or picture him in a just plain unflattering light. The images have now been removed from Greenberg’s website after the artist received a cease-and-desist letter from the Atlantic -- a curiously panicky reaction from a publication that should be defending artistic freedom. In the meantime, the firestorm brewed by right-wing commentators has led to numerous death threats.

Goldberg, the author of the Atlantic article, has himself penned a denunciation of the artist at, calling her "an indecent person who should not be working in magazine journalism" and "deranged" -- big words from a man primarily known these days for his embarrassingly enthusiastic early support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On Sept. 16, 2008, Goldberg penned a gloating follow-up post, after having personally confirmed that the "excrement-obsessed photoshopper" had been dropped by her representative, the Vaughan Hannigan photo agency, over the brouhaha.

Greenberg, of course, is no stranger to controversy. Art news buffs remember her from the controversy around her show "End Times" at L.A.’s Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Apr. 22-July 8, 2006. For that show, she created a series of portraits of toddlers crying meant, according to a press release, to evoke the religious fanaticism and despair of George W. Bush’s America. (Amusingly, the press release for that show says the work is partly inspired by PBS journalist Bill Moyers, who has also made a documentary, Buying the War, specifically singling out Jeffrey Goldberg’s complicity in the rush to war in Iraq.) When online commentators got wind that Greenberg had caused the tots to cry by literally snatching candy from their hands, a firestorm erupted, with people accusing her of child abuse -- though the current vitriol makes that snafu pale in comparison.

Dropped by Vaughan Hannigan, Greenberg has now been picked up by Artmix Photography. In its press release, Artmix calls her a "Maverick. Visionary. Provocateur. Manipulator. Artist" -- with "Maverick" clearly being a dig at McCain and his campaign persona.

British art mogul Charles Saatchi made a £500,000 profit on his sale of a sculptural installation by Jake and Dinos Chapman to the Tate, according to a report by Charles Thomson and the Stuckists, the group founded in 1999 to promote figurative painting. In a press release, the Stuckists note that Saatchi reportedly bought the installation, The Chapman Family Collection, in 2002 for £1 million, and that the Tate lists its purchase price for the work at £1,500,000 in its July 2008 report.

"The Tate are always moaning about a shortage of funds but they pour money down the drain. How do they have the nerve to ask notable senior artists to donate work, when they spend this much on the Chapmans? Why didn't they ask the Chapmans to donate a work?" asked Thomson, who called for an official inquiry into how the museum is run.

The Chapman Family Collection consists of 34 carved and painted figures "of faux-African sculptures with MacDonald's emblems." According to reports, the work was influential in the Chapman’s being awarded the Turner Prize in 2003. A Tate spokesman declined to comment on the charges.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has broken ground for its new Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, the ambitious scheme to convert 100 acres of untamed woodlands and meadows adjacent to the museum into a setting for site-specific artworks by Los Carpinteros, Jeppe Hein, Alfredo Jaar, Andrea Zittel and others. The $25-million project, which is slated to open in September 2009, also features a visitor center and nature trails.

The Getty Research Institute has launched a new curatorial department devoted to architecture and design, headed by architectural historian Wim de Wit with artist and with urban designer Christopher James Alexander serving as associate curator. The GRI holds one of the world’s largest collections of materials related to art and architecture, including more than 30,000 original drawings, 750,000 photographs, nearly 100 models and a vast array of papers and ephemera. The new department is already in action, collaborating on a symposium with the Hammer Museum on John Lautner, Sept. 19-20, 2008.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum holds the grand premiere of its new permanent building at 1214 Arch Street in Philadelphia on Oct. 3, 2008, with the exhibition of a 23-foot-long tapestry designed by Ed Ruscha, the artist’s first such undertaking. Woven at Flanders Tapestries in Belgium, the work is based on Ruscha’s 1989 painting, Industrial Strength Sleep. The exhibition, which includes the original painting (on loan from the Pompidou Center in Paris) as well as a selection of related works on paper selected by guest curator Paul Schimmel, opened on July 14 and runs to Oct. 25, 2008.

David Nolan Gallery
is relocating from the 560 Broadway building in SoHo to a new space at 527 West 29th Street in Chelsea. The debut exhibition at the new space is a survey of works by 85-year-old Minimalist Pop artist Richard Artschwager, which features as well a special façade designed by the artist with cadmium yellow trim and reflective metallic grays. The show, "Richard Artschwager: Objects as Images of Objects, 1966-2008," Oct. 4-Dec. 6, 2008, is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by artist and critic Alexi Worth.

Lehmann Maupin Gallery
at 201 Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side in Manhattan is holding a benefit on Monday, Sept. 22, 2008, for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The "last party of summer & the first of the fall. . . to support a great cause," as it is billed, includes hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, dessert and dancing to the backdrop of a new work by Jennifer Steinkamp. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door; for more info, contact

launches the fall season at its Williamsburg location (60 N. 6th Street) with "Coloring Book," Sept. 20-Oct. 5, 2008, selection of drawings and coloring-book pages made from them by 10 artists:  Gonzalo Fuenmayor, Carla Gannis, Tamara Gayer, Mitchell Marco, Thomas McKean, Alexander Reyna, Carlos Roque, Molly Schwartz, Federico Solmi and Jim Stoten. Kids and others are invited to color the pages, which are being added to the exhibition. For more info, see

British Pop art pioneer Richard Hamilton and Ilya & Emilia Kabakov have won 2008 Praemium Imperiale awards from the Japan Art Association. The prize comes with a cash award of ¥15 million (about $140,000). The awards are presented in Tokyo on Oct. 15, 2008.

The Art Matters foundation began giving grants to artists in 1985, undertook to raise funds with a mail-order catalogue of artist-made objects in the 1990s -- with limited success -- and finally reignited its grant program in 2005. The organization has now announced 21 grants ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 for projects "focusing on communication and collaboration across national borders." The winners are Sabrina Artel, Seth Augustine, Tamy Ben-Tor, Dave Burns, Jonathan Calm, Nicolás Dumit Estévez, Paul Galloway, Leslie Hewitt, Fawn Krieger, Rodney McMillan, Ivan Monforte, My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, Alexandro Segade), Trevor Paglen, Ernesto Pujol, Ishmael Randall Weeks, Andrea Ray, Luis Sánchez Ramírez, Jeannie Simms, Tavares Strachan, Tam Van Tran and Anne Walsh. For more info, see

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