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Artnet News
Sept. 23, 2008 

Notch up another move into the primary photography market for the upstart auction house Phillips de Pury & Co., which has signed an exclusive arrangement to represent superstar portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz. Phillips has increasingly supplemented its auction activity with selling exhibitions of photography and design. The firm represents the estate of superchic French fashion photog Guy Bourdin (1928-91), for instance, and mounted successful shows of glamour snaps by Mario Testino in London last summer and in Paris in 2006.

The new arrangement with Leibovitz involves the production of the so-called "Annie Leibovitz Master Set," which is described as a "definitive oeuvre composed of approximately 200 iconic images" -- and Leibovitz has iconic images to spare, ranging from her 1970 image of John and Yoko embracing at the Dakota to her 1986 portrait of a nude Keith Haring painted black and white in his studio (which holds her current auction record of $57,400). The master set features new large-format prints in editions of seven, with prices starting at £20,000.

Phillips’ inaugural Leibovitz show, on view at the auction firm’s London space on Howick Place, Oct. 22-Nov. 17, 2008, features 24 works, including portraits of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Crawford, Queen Elizabeth II, Mick Jagger, John and Yoko, Patti Smith and Susan Sontag. The exhibition coincides with the appearance of "Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005" at the National Portrait Gallery in London. A press rep for Phillips says that its show is likely to tour to New York and other venues.

According to an insider, the new "master set" doesn’t change Leibovitz’s edition structure, since she always retained the right to make large prints in addition to her existing editions. Nor does Phillips plan a dedicated auction of her work, à la Damien Hirst’s "Beautiful in My Head Forever" sale. Leibowitz had previously worked with Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York, which had no comment about the artist’s decision to move to the auction house.

Hirst’s $200-million "Beautiful" auction at Sotheby’s London on Sept. 15-16, 2008, by the way, was certainly a success -- but that hardly means that everyone is happy. The hard-working staff at the Art Newspaper made a splash with a report in August headlined "Revealed: the Art Damien Hirst Failed to Sell." That article, by Cristina Ruiz, cast doubts on the viability of the 223-lot Sotheby’s sale by asserting that Hirst’s London gallery, White Cube, was "sitting on unsold sculptures and paintings by the British artist worth in excess of £100m."

Given the jitters over Hirst’s audacious move to auction, the story got wide play, even making it into the pages of the Economist, which asserted that Hirst was trying to "overturn the basic laws of economics." Of all the Hirst fans irritated by the Art Newspaper’s angle, however, none was as motivated as London dealer Ivor Braka, whose reaction is now featured on the Art Newspaper website. In an online vid, Braka excoriates the trusty art publication, accusing it of "gutter journalism" and saying that the article is "inaccurate," riddled with "errors of fact," "beneath contempt," "unnecessary" and "cynical."

Braka even went so far as to suggest that the Art Newspaper should have supported the sale, because "no one will buy your newspaper if the art market goes down." So far, of course, this eventuality has not come to pass, as "Beautiful in My Head Forever" was a hit, and the Art Newspaper site now has several new videos analyzing the sale in a calmer light.

Still speaking of Hirst’s "Beautiful" sale, the artist’s gravity-defying success in the face of the biggest Wall Street crisis since the Great Depression has not gone unnoticed in the wider arena of politics, either. New York Times’ center-right commentator Roger Cohen weighed in on Sept. 21, 2008, with an op-ed, taking Hirst’s success as a portent of the state of the "global economy and America’s declining place in it." Cohen cites auctioneer Oliver Barker’s claim that the Russians were major buyers, and the fact that Sotheby’s previewed the sale in New Delhi, as evidence for an argument that the U.S. deserves more help from other nations in its time of need. Offering what he calls "the Hirst reality check," Cohen claims that if an artist "can sell a formaldehyde-pickled sheep with gold horns for millions while Lehman goes under, perhaps it’s time for everyone to help a little when Americans get fleeced" -- presumably meaning that if foreigners can buy super-expensive avant-garde art, they should also pitch in when the U.S. economy goes belly-up. Ah, those deep thinkers, let’s hope their heads don’t explode.

There’s nothing that says "genius" like piling up plastic cups. Or so says the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which has named 38-year-old Brooklyn-based sculptor Tara Donovan as one of 25 recipients of its 2008 grants. Represented by Pace Wildenstein gallery, Donovan is celebrated for her near-miraculous sculptures that involve vast accumulations of everyday objects like cups, straws or mylar tape, massed into large-scale, biomorphic environments. Each so-called MacArthur "genius" award is worth an unrestricted total of $500,000, spread out over five years.

Alongside a broad assortment of agronomists, geomorphologists and "urban farmers," other artsy types who take 2008 MacArthur grants include novelist Chimamanda Adichie, fiber artist Mary Jackson, violinist Leila Josefowicz, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, stage lighting designer Jennifer Tipton and saxophonist Miguel Zenón. More info at

Veteran painter Robert Colescott has been named a "Local Genius" by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, Ariz., in a new program designed to recognize the value of innovative thinkers in our daily lives. A Tucson resident, Colescott was an art professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson, during 1985-95. MOCA genius awards also go to scientist and space explorer Peter Smith, author Byrd Baylor, poet Sherwin Bitsui, chef Suzana Dávila and musician Howie Gelb.

New York dealer Friedrich Petzel and Cologne gallerist Gisela Capitain are teaming up to open a new Berlin venture, dubbed, appropriately enough, Capitain & Petzel. Located in a 1,300-square-meter space dating from 1964, designed by architects Josef Kaiser and Walter Franek at Karl Marx Allee 45 in the Mitte neighborhood, the new gallery will focus on showcasing "international artists." It opens Oct. 31, 2008, with "Kunst Im Heim" (Art in Your Home), which invites artists from both galleries’ stables to respond to the unique architecture.

Included in "Kunst Im Heim" are Cosima von Bonin, Matthew Brannon, Troy Brauntuch, Wade Guyton, Charline von Heyl, Margarete Jakschik, Martin Kippenberger, Maria Lassnig, Zoe Leonard, Joyce Pensato, Seth Price, Stephen Prina, Sam Samore, Dirk Skreber, Monika Sosnowska, Nicola Tyson, Christopher Williams and Christopher Wool.  The new website is at

The provocative graffiti artist Keith Haring seems like the last person to take up moralistic Christian themes, but nevertheless he did complete a major series of paintings titled "The Ten Commandments." Originally painted for a 1985 museum exhibition in Bordeaux, the ten tablet-shaped canvases, each 25 feet tall, now go on view at Deitch Projects in Long Island City, Nov. 8-Dec. 21, 2008. Also slated for display is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1984), which measures ca. 26 x 37 ft. and which has never been shown in the U.S. The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of Haring’s birth in 1958, and coincides with a new book on the artist, titled Keith Haring (Rizzoli).

For a photo tour of the Singapore Biennale, whose second iteration is on view in the multiethnic island country, Sept. 11-Nov. 16, 2008, the place to go is Universes in Universe, the Berlin-based global arts website overseen by Dr. Gerhard Haupt and Pat Binder. This year’s Singapore Biennale, organized by Fumio Nanjo, has the theme of "Wonder."

The 13-year-old National Black Fine Art Show is moving from the Puck Building in SoHo to a new venue at 7 West 34th Street in midtown Manhattan, across the street from the Empire State Building. The show, which opens Feb. 13-15, 2009, presents more than 40 exhibitors, including Aaron Galleries (Chicago), Art 70th Gallery (New York), Dolan/Maxwell (Philadelphia), Gallery Bourbon-Lally (Petionville, Haiti), William Greenbaum Fine Art (Gloucester, Mass.), Intemporel (Paris), Spence Gallery (Toronto), and G.R. N’Namdi Gallery (Chicago and New York).

One of the stars of the Los Angeles contemporary art scene, Anna Helwing, is calling it quits with "Going Out of Business," Oct. 11-25, 2008, a group show organized by artist Karl Haendel. Helwing launched her gallery in a former glass-cutting shop on La Cienega Boulevard; the final exhibition includes works by Emilie Halpern, Skylar Haskard, Dawn Kasper, Lutz/Guggisberg, Spandau Parks, Robert Russell, Maya Schindler, Mindy Shapero and Mario Ybarra Jr.  Helwing says her decision results not from financial pressures but due to the demands of single motherhood. 

The new survey of artworks by the late sculptor Frederick Hart (1943-1999), whose best-known work is probably Three Soldiers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., has won the 2008 silver medal from the Independent Publisher group. The 328-page monograph, Frederick Hart: The Complete Works, is published by Butler Books of Louisville, Ky., and boasts 246 color plates as well as essays by Donald Kuspit and Frederick Turner. For more info, see

Peter D. Barberie
, guest curator of "Close Encounters: Portraits of Artists and Writers by Irving Penn" at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, has been appointed curator of photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Barbarie had been a visiting fellow at the museum during 2003-07, organizing "Looking at Atget" in 2005 and co-organizing "Dreaming in Black and White: Photography at the Julien Levy Gallery" in 2006. He succeeds Katherine C. Ware, who was recently named curator of photographs at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

Eric C. Shiner
, an adjunct professor of East Asian contemporary art at the Cooper Union, has been named curator of art at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Shiner, who served as assistant curator for the 2001 Yokohama Triennale, has organized several exhibitions in New York, including "Making a Home: Japanese Artists in New York" at Japan Society and exhibitions of work by Tracey Moffatt and Jane Philbrick at Location One in SoHo.

Artnet, which operates an English language website based in New York City and a German-language site based in Berlin, has now added a French-language version based in Paris. Under the supervision of editor Gina Kehayoff, boasts all the usual Artnet features, including the new online auctions and the auction-price database. A French version of Artnet Magazine is also in the works.

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