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BENETTON CANCELS VENICE PLANS

Apr. 28, 2011

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A noteworthy plan to take artworks by eight African-American artists to the 54th Venice Biennale, June 4-Nov. 27, 2011, has been suddenly canceled at the last minute by its corporate sponsor, Benetton. Originally undertaken in collaboration with the American Folk Art Museum, the exhibition was called off because the planned site, the unoccupied and historic Fondaco dei Tedeschi adjacent to the Rialto Bridge, could not be renovated in time, according to the clothing company.

Cynics might be forgiven for suspecting a different reason: The celebration of graffiti in Los Angeles, via "Art of the Streets" at LA MOCA, prompted a conservative cultural backlash as well as a reported eruption of tagging in the museum neighborhood, and the idea of encouraging graffiti in Venice with a prestigious art show must have struck some city fathers as less than a great idea.

Under the Benetton scheme for Venice, curators Martha Henry and Carlo McCormick selected four graffiti artists (Blade, DAZE, QUIK and Sharp) and four Outsider Artists (Lonnie Holley, Mr. Imagination, Tin Man [pictured] and Kevin Sampson) to show at the biennale -- plans that are now cancelled. "It seems the Folk Art Museum and Benetton spent all their time fighting with one another rather than getting together to make this happen," said one insider. Will Benetton stiff the eight black artists on their promised payday? Stay tuned.


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