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Artnet News
Sept. 9, 2007 

After delays and a media build-up including articles in publications ranging from Luxury Traveler and Art & Antiques to Showboats International and Fog Horn, the first-ever SeaFair is finally on its way. The concept -- put a roster of art and antiques galleries aboard a $60-million, 228-foot, custom-designed luxury yacht, the Grand Luxe, and sail them up and down the Eastern seaboard, with invitation-only events at each stop -- has raised some eyebrows. But the fair’s organizers, David and Lee Ann Lester, believe that it is an idea whose time has come.

The Lesters are known in the art world for having founded the "Palm Beach!" art fair, selling the franchise for a reported $18 million to Daily Mail Group in 2001. They have pitched their new project both as a mega-exclusive endeavor that provides dealers with entry into affluent communities that don’t necessarily have their own art fair, and as a bargain, claiming that "cost of participation for each port visit is less than half that of an individual art fair," due to savings on shipping and staff.

The first, Connecticut-New York leg of the inaugural SeaFair launches in Greenwich, Conn., Sept. 25-Oct. 21, 2007, and includes stop-offs in Port Washington, New York and Norwalk/Westport. Subsequently, the yacht heads down to Florida to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach, and then back up the U.S. coast, concluding in Portsmouth, Me. on Aug. 24, 2008. There are 12 "legs" in all, with the Lesters promising to rotate dealers and change inventory to meet local tastes at each port.

Among those confirmed for the maiden SeaFair voyage are London’s Cohen & Cohen, which promises to bring fine porcelain, priced mainly in the $10,000 to $100,000 range; New York’s Mark Borghi Fine Art (participating only in the Miami leg), which is bringing work by blue-chip artists Alexander Calder, Philip Guston, Robert Motherwell and Wayne Thiebaud; New York’s Iliad Antik, which will focus on 20th-century furniture and painting by Hungarian modernists; and Santa Fe’s William Siegal Galleries, which plans to bring pre-Columbian textiles and objects, bolstering their display with the contemporary sculpture of Tom Waldron for the yacht’s appearance in Miami.

According to a list supplied by the fair, other intrepid dealers on the first leg are A.B. Levy (Palm Beach), Alexander Gallery (New York), Beauvias Carpets (New York), Berry-Hill Galleries (New York), David Morris (London/New York/Palm Beach), Galerie Thomas (Munich), Galerie Piece Unique (Paris), Galerie Jacques Bailly (Paris), Gioia Galleria (New York), Goedhuis Contemporary (New York/London/Beijing), Imperial Fine Books (New York), Jerald Melberg Gallery (Charlotte), John Mitchell (London), Levy Glass (Palm Beach), Mallett Antiques (London/New York), Martin Du Louvre (Paris), Merrill Stevens (Miami), Pelham (London/New York), Richters (Palm Beach), Ron Hall (Dallas), Silver Fund (London) and Two Zero C Applied (London).

The debut of SeaFair was originally scheduled for 2006, but met with multiple delays. It currently lists 25 galleries for its first leg, having widely advertised that it has room for 28 onboard. Additional fodder for SeaFair skeptics is the fact that the 87-entry "exhibitor list" on the SeaFair website turns out to be, on inspection, a list of galleries that have simply "applied" to the fair -- some having withdrawn their applications as long as two years ago. Several dealers who are currently on the SeaFair list (complete with links to their gallery websites) told Artnet News that they were definitely not participating, including Belloc Lowndes Fine Art (Chicago), Jonathan Novak Contemporary (Los Angeles), Max Lang (New York), William Shearburn Gallery (St. Louis) and Waterhouse & Dodd (London).

An ambitious endeavor like SeaFair is bound to have its share of difficulties. Both untried and costly (dealers reportedly pay $40,000 to $120,000 for a space on the Grand Luxe, varying based on shipboard location), the fair is a gamble. As one of the dealers who had pulled out told Artnet News, "I simply cannot schedule a whole month on a boat."

But success could easily dispel any doubts. The same dealer promptly added, "We’ll see if that policy changes."

After decades as a sleepy military outpost occasionally doing double-duty as a fancy art-fair venue, the Seventh Regiment Armory at Park Avenue and 67th Street in New York is undergoing a noticeable rebirth. Recently redubbed the Park Avenue Armory under the direction of the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy, chaired by CEO Rebecca Robertson -- a theater person who headed the 42nd Street Development Project in the 1990s -- the 128-year-old red brick structure (and its enviable 200 x 300 foot Drill Hall) is slated for a complete renovation as well as a programming overhaul that promises performing arts events along with art and antique fairs.

First up on the fall calendar is a completely new event -- an art performance by bad-boy bohemian Aaron Young, who plans to cover the floor of the drill hall with 288 panels of plywood, forming a 128 x 72 foot "canvas" of fluorescent red, pink, orange and yellow paint, all covered with an opaque coat of black. In an invite-only performance scheduled for Sept. 17, 2007, ten motorcycle riders are going to make patterns of "burnouts" on the wood. The massive artwork is inspired by the 1943 Jackson Pollock action painting Greeting Card, and remains on view Sept. 18-23, 2007. The event is co-presented by the Art Production Fund.

No art fairs are scheduled for the armory until October, when Brian and Anna Haughton bring a well-established pair of events to New York: the International Art + Design Fair, Oct. 5-10, 2007, and the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show, Oct. 19-25, 2007. Other fair organizers using the armory venue include Sanford L. Smith and Associates, the Winter Antiques Show and the Wendy Antiques Shows, as well as the Art Dealers Association of America, which runs the annual Art Show there in the spring.

The cost for the art-fair organizers is rising as part of the modernization, however. The climbing rents -- from an estimated $10,000 a day to $30,000 a day -- has led to some protests. The new rates are set at market levels, according to armory spokesperson, or even "a little lower than the average."

The New Museum -- which has closed its temporary outpost at the Chelsea Art Museum in anticipation of the Dec. 1, 2007, debut of its stylish new anodized aluminum mesh skyscraper at 235 Bowery -- has now teamed up with the legendary Bloomingdale’s department store in Manhattan. As part of "Artrageous," a fall art-and-fashion promotion, Bloomie’s has a special display of art wares drawn from the New Museum shop, and plans an auction of signed designer sketches by the likes of Donna Karan, Norma Kamali and Cynthia Rowley to benefit the museum’s education program. The event features special art-and-fashion displays in the store windows, including one collaboration between artist Stephen Posen and his son, the designer Zac Posen. "The Bowery turns into Third Avenue as it runs uptown," exclaimed New Museum director Lisa Phillips [Bloomingdales stretches from Third to Lexington between 59th and 60th streets]. "We’re neighbors!"

The Artist Pension Trust, the four-year-old "pension fund" for artists funded by contributions of their own artworks, is setting up a branch in the Middle East. Over the next five years, APT Dubai, as it is called, plans to invite 250 Middle Eastern artists to participate by contributing 20 works to the fund over the coming 10-15 years. Under the plan, proceeds of the eventual sale of the artworks would be distributed as follows: 40 percent to the artist whose work is sold; 32 percent to a mutually shared pool; and 28 percent to APT. the trust is expected to operate over 20-30 years.

APT Dubai is directed by November Paynter, a co-curator of the 2005 Istanbul Biennial and a former consultant curator at Tate Modern. The fund’s curatorial committee consists of Mai Abu ElDahab, artistic director of Objectif Exhibitions in Antwerp and co-curator of the canceled Manifesta exhibition planned for Cyprus; Vasif Kortun, director of Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center in Istanbul; Beirut-based video artist Akram Zaatarib; and Berlin-based curator and critic Tirdad Zolghadr.

The fund now has branches in eight cities (Beijing, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Mumbai and New York are the others). According to APT, 700 artists have joined and contributed 1,200 artworks so far. Participating artists include Huma Bhabha, Sanford Biggers, Lee Boroson, Marco Breuer, Lee Bul, Ann Craven and Tim Davis (in New York). More info can be found at

APT is currently headed by businessman Bijan Khezri, with art consultant Pamela Auchincloss serving as managing director and former museum director David Ross as chair of the curatorial committee. The fund doesn’t release info about its overhead, investors or the value of its assets, though reports have said that it would hold artworks for ten years before bringing them to market.

Another approach to art and cash comes from E-Flux, which is launching an art pawnshop at its storefront at 53 Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side. The email headline reads: "Forget gallery hassles -- GET CASH NOW!" Artworks by some 60 artists are promised, from Lucas Ajemian and Carlos Amorales to Florian Wüst and Andrea Zittel -- though several of the participants hardly seem likely to pawn their possessions for a little pocket change. The show opens to the public on Oct. 1, 2007, with sales set to commence on Nov. 1, 2007. For details, see

L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has appointed Olga Garay to head the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Garay, who will oversee the office’s $9.9 million budget, served as program director for the arts at the $1.8 billion Doris Duke Charitable Foundation until 2005, and has since been working independently in New York, advising the Lincoln Center Festival on its presentation of Spanish-language theater.

The position has been vacant for more than a year, and the mayor’s tardiness has drawn fire from, among others, former DCA head Margie Reese [see Artnet News, Jan. 9, 2007]. One of Garay’s first orders of business is to jumpstart an ambitious new cultural "master plan," designed to set a course for the arts in the City of Angels.

When the Philadelphia Museum of Art opens its brand new Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building to the public on Sept. 15, 2007, admission is going to be free. Financial services giant Wachovia has donated $500,000 to underwrite the program for the rest of the year. General admission to the museum is $14, and separate admission to the Perelman Building is $7, beginning Jan. 1, 2008. The new facility, an impressive $90-million renovation of a 1927 Art Deco structure across Pennsylvania Avenue from the existing museum, features five new galleries and museum offices and storage.

Marian Goodman Gallery celebrates its 30th anniversary with a two-part exhibition of works by 40 artists organized by critic and art historian Benjamin H.D. Buchloh. "Part One," Sept. 10-Oct. 13, 2007, ranges from Dara Birnbaum and Maurizio Cattelan to Niele Toroni and Jeff Wall, while "Part Two," Oct. 23-Nov. 24, features works by Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Marcel Broodthaers, Juan Muñoz, Yang Fudong and others. The anniversary is also marked by the publication of a lavishly illustrated 292-page book, complete with a chronology, interviews with the dealer by Lynne Cooke and Jean-François Chevrier and an essay by Buchloh.

Chicago-born artist Keith Edmier is slated for his first retrospective at the Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., Oct. 20, 2007-Feb. 3, 2008. Organized by Tom Eccles, the exhibition features Edmier’s highly detailed realist sculptures, including his wax portrait of his own childhood sweetheart as well as his collaboration with Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett (Edmier and Fawcett created sculpture portraits of one another). Also featured in the show is Bremen Towne, a new work that is a scale reproduction of the artist’s childhood home, ca. 1971.

Cheim & Read gallery in New York’s Chelsea art district kicks off the new art season with "I Am as You Will Be: The Skeleton in Art," Sept. 20-Nov. 3, 2007. Featuring 30 works and co-organized by Xavier Tricot (a James Ensor scholar), the show includes artists ranging from Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst and Sherrie Levine to Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Pablo Picasso and Félicien Rops. "The skeleton indicates the inevitable passing of time and ultimately mocks the fruitless hope for immortality."

Veteran art dealer Peter Nahum -- the former head of Victorian paintings at Sotheby’s and a longtime expert on the BBC’s Antiques Road Show, who operates the tony Leicester Galleries Ltd on Ryder Street in London’s St. James district -- has put the Leicester Galleries up for sale. "I’m reinventing myself," he said, reportedly setting course to develop a large building as a nonprofit exhibition space.

The gallery, originally founded in 1902 and specializing in 19th- and 20th-century British and European art, comes with a ten-year lease, an extensive library and stock estimated to be worth $6 million-$10 million. Also included is the gallery’s client and contact database. No asking price is given; for inquiries, contact Maxine McPherson at BCMS Corporate Ltd at

With our overheated art market, does anyone still think that "Fine Art is Not a Career"? Famed Pop muralist James Rosenquist does, as he is slated to give a lecture with that very title at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Nov. 28, 2007. (Rosenquist’s auction record stands at $1,248,000 for 1964’s Be Beautiful, sold at Christie’s New York in 2005.) Rosenquist’s talk is part of the "Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures," the schedule of which also includes architecture critic Benjamin Forgey, speaking on "Changing Context: Architecture in Washington" on Sept. 19, and African-American art scholar David Driskell on "An Introspective Art Account: Personal Entitlement" on Oct. 10.

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