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Artnet News
Sept. 30, 2008 

People say that the art market lags behind the overall economy by six to 18 months -- and we get our next chance to check collector outlook at Brian and Anna Haughton’s International Art + Design Fair 1900-2008 at the Park Avenue Armory, Oct. 3-8, 2008. The special loan exhibition is "Knoll Textiles, The Designer’s Vision," curated by Mary Schoeser and installed by Proenza Schouler, and the opening night gala on Oct. 2 benefits the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture.

The show features more than 40 exhibitors from the U.S. and Europe. Highlights include a pendant by Kenny Scharf of a grinning crescent moon, titled Speedy, made of 18kt gold with sapphire eyes, diamond teeth and a bulbous white enamel nose, at Afsoun, New York, and a 1933 bronze statuette of Diomedes and His Mare by William Zorach at Tom Veilleux Gallery, Portland, Me. Other participating dealers range from Rami G. Abboud (New York, Paris, Beirut), Antik (New York) and Ayyam (Damascus) to the Silver Fund (London), Sundaram Tagore Gallery (New York) and Wexler Gallery (Philadelphia). For more info, see

This is a busy week for art-world fans of presidential candidate Barack Obama, especially in New York City. Art for Obama, a week-long online auction of donated photographs, begins today, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008, featuring works by artists ranging from Uta Barth and Dawoud Bey to Wolfgang Tillmans and James Welling. The benefit is organized by five independent artists, and proceeds are earmarked for the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee and other progressive organizations. On Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008, the restaurant Hiro in the Maritime Hotel in the city’s Chelsea art district is hosting a special fund-raising viewing of the vice-presidential debate, beginning at 8 pm. Admission is $50, but a $200 donation comes with a set of limited edition campaign buttons designed by Elizabeth Peyton, Cecily Brown and Laura Owens, and a $500 gift wins a goodie bag including the buttons, a signed poster by Rirkrit Tiravanija, a patriotic party favor by Rachel Harrison and a raffle ticket for a glitter painting of a polar bear by Rob Pruitt. All funds go directly to the Obama Victory Fund. Space is limited, so rsvp immediately to

The following day, Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, an organization called Art Obama is holding a silent auction of more than 100 small works by U.S. artists at 62 Eighteenth Street in Brooklyn, just off the Gowanus Expressway in southern Park Slope. Among the participating artists are Joe Amrhein, Nayland Blake, Chris Bors, Judy Glantzman, Neil Goldberg, Cynthia Hartling, Julie Heffernan, Elisabeth Kley, Ruth Orkin and Gary Panter. Admission is $25 at the door, with proceeds once again going to the Obama Victory Fund. Space is limited, and pre-registration is strongly recommended; for more info, see

Washington Mutual, the nation’s largest savings-and-loan, was forced to sell itself to JPMorgan Chase last week, marking the largest bank collapse in U.S. history. The fallout is not yet clear. Among the bystanders, however, one potentially left holding a bag is the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), which entered into a much-touted partnership with the bank when it opened its expansion in 2007 [see Artnet News, May 1, 2006].

As befits a time of derivatives and credit default swaps, the WaMu-SAM deal was teeth-achingly complex. Basically, the two institutions shared SAM’s 16-floor, Brad Cloepfil-designed expansion in downtown Seattle, with the museum using the first four floors of the building for exhibitions. WaMu owned the top four floors of the new structure outright, and leased the remaining floors from the museum for $4.6 million (a significant contribution towards SAM’s $24-million annual budget).

As part of the deal, Washington Mutual also got to build its own new headquarters on museum land adjacent to the expansion, purchasing development rights for $18 million, an $8-million discount on the appraisal. The sweetheart deal -- no one else was allowed to bid on the rights -- was justified by the fact that WaMu was helping out a loved nonprofit. For similar reasons, WaMu was allowed by the city to exceed zoning regulations in constructing the 42-story Washington Mutual Tower, getting 900,000 square feet of new space for its headquarters.

At this point, all this space -- WaMu was the largest commercial tenant in the city, with 1.6 million square feet owned or leased in downtown Seattle -- looks like a prime example of monumental overreach. Seattle is bracing for major cuts in the bank’s local operations.

The effect of such cutbacks on the Seattle Art Museum remain to be seen. According to the museum, WaMu is current on its rent, and the new owner is responsible for maintaining the arrangement with the museum.

Meanwhile, local wags have quickly noted the museum’s vulnerable position. According to Monica Guzman in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, pranksters stuck a fake "Notice of Proposed Land Use Action" on the front of WaMu Tower last night. The notice proclaimed that the building would be converted into condos and retail, adding that "[t]he connected museum complex will be demolished to clear space for a future parking garage."

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), meanwhile, has had a notable partnership with Wachovia, another banking giant that disappeared into the ether in the last few days (under government pressure, Wachovia sold itself to Citigroup). The Charlotte, N.C.-based financial institution had a specific charitable focus on community development and education, but teamed with the PMA to fund the creation of the Wachovia Education Resource Center, which promotes arts education with area children, in the recently opened Perelman Building on the museum campus. In 2004, the bank supported the initiative with a $750,000 gift. On the opening of the new building in Sept. 2007, Wachovia stepped in with another $500,000 gift, bankrolling free admission to the facilities for the last four months of the year.

So, does the end of Wachovia signal a name change for the PMA’s education center? "It strikes me as a bizarre question," said a museum spokesman. At present, the name remains -- leaving the Wachovia Education Resource Centeras a monument, for the time being, to a bygone era.

Yet more fallout from the economic crisis can be expected in the auction rooms. For instance, Richard Fuld, the disgraced head of Lehman Brothers, and his wife, Kathy Fuld, vice-chair of the Museum of Modern Art trustee board, have consigned a trove of 16 Abstract Expressionist drawings to the Nov. 12 evening sale at Christie’s New York, according to press reports. The selection, which carries a total presale estimate of $15 million-$20 million, includes three Willem de Kooning "Women" drawings, four works by Arshile Gorky, five Barnet Newman drawings and a work by Agnes Martin. In an interview with New York Times art market reporter Carol Vogel, Kathy Fuld claimed that the sale had nothing to do with the meltdown at Lehman, and that she was simply refining her holdings, which now number some 100 works on paper.

Curiously, however, one of the Gorky’s that Fuld is sending to the auction block -- Study for Agony I -- is related to a painting in MoMA’s collection, a connection which would lead the average observer to expect that the superior patron might well donate the work to the museum. According to the Times, she bought it in 1996 for $370,000; it’s presale estimate is $2.2 million-$2.8 million.

In what could be viewed as still another canary in the coalmine moment for the art world, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu is laying off 11 full-time and 14 part-time employees, while director Georgianna Lagoria is taking a voluntary 15 percent pay cut. The museum also said it is suspending plans to take any large, and expensive, travelling shows. Board president Vi Loo described the situation as an "unprecedented" development for the 47-year-old institution, which hosts the "Biennial of Hawaii Artists," among other exhibitions.

The ruthless cost-cutting was made urgent, according to the Pacific Business News, by "the drop in market value of the museum’s endowment." Further details were not forthcoming, but it stands to reason that some museums have been caught up in the stock market crash. As Artnet News reported last year, more than one museum -- notably the Museum of Modern Art [see Artnet News, Nov. 6, 2007] -- had moved some of their investments into hedge funds, which so far in 2008 are on track for their worst year ever.

Beverly Hills arts patrons Lynda and Stewart Resnick are giving $45 million in cash to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to finance the museum’s new 45,000-square-foot exhibition pavilion designed by Renzo Piano. The new facility, which is already under construction and should be completed in 2010, is sited directly behind the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which opened in early 2008. The Resnicks, who have also promised $10 million worth of art to the museum, are the owners of Paramount Citrus, one of the country’s largest citrus producers, and Paramount Farms, which distributes almonds and pistacios. They also own Teleflor, Fiji Water and Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, according to a report in the New York Times.

New York art dealer Barbara Gladstone has made an unspecified donation to the New Museum of Contemporary Art to underwrite a new series of public lectures and other presentations by innovative thinkers in art, architecture, design and other cultural disciplines. The Stuart Regan Visionaries Fund, as it is called, honors Gladstone’s son, Stuart Regen, a Los Angeles art gallery owner who died ten years ago at age 39. The series, which focuses on "what’s next," according to museum director Lisa Phillips, gets under way in spring 2009.

Artist Mark Dion has been named the winner of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2008 Lucelia Artist Award, a prize that comes with a $25,000 purse. The jury included Bates College Museum of Art director Mark Bessire, artist Allan McCollum, Art in America senior editor Nancy Princenthal, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts curator John Ravenal, and Aspen Art Museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson.

Roger M. Buergel has been named the first chief curator and deputy director of programs at the fast-expanding Miami Art Museum (which is scheduled to break ground on its new Herzog & de Meuron-designed building next year). A respected professor of "visual theory," Buergel is best known as co-curator of the sprawling, eccentric Documenta 12 in 2007, which the MAM press release modestly describes as a "polemical exhibition which moved beyond the Western paradigm of art." One of Buergel’s paradigm-breaking moves, of course, was to hire his own wife, Ruth Noack, as co-curator of Documenta. No word on whether she also makes the leap to Miami.

Ukrainian steel billionaire Victor Pinchuk, founder of the Pinchuk Art Center in Kiev in 2006, has hired Eckhard Schneider, former director of the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, as its director.

The New York Sun, the daily founded to be a right-wing antidote to the "liberal" New York Times, has closed. While the editorial and news coverage of the paper was often tendentiously pro-war, socially conservative and blindly pro-corporate, it did distinguish itself with excellent arts coverage -- albeit of a notably conservative bent -- making full-color images from New York art events on its front page part of its identity. Among the heavy-hitting art critics who found a place in its back section were David Cohen, Lance Esplund and Maureen Mullarkey, while the news pages boasted exclusive dispatches by arts reporter Kate Taylor.

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