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Artnet News
Apr. 8, 2010 

Is America ready for art criticism? Because plenty of art criticism is definitely part of the mix in the Bravo cable television channel’s newest reality show, "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist," which is slated to debut on June 9, 2010, at 11 pm (with the subsequent nine shows airing at 10 pm). Check out the show’s new website, featuring the familiar mugs of some beloved art-world insiders.

In a special press screening on Apr. 7, 2010, the cable television channel (owned by NBC Universal) presented the first episode, followed by a discussion with the show’s stars: executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker, who makes occasional guest appearances on the show, but is not otherwise on air; auctioneer Simon de Pury, who plays "mentor" to the show’s 14 artists (the Tim Gunn role on Project Runway, the fashion reality show launched on Bravo in 2004); China Chow, the attractive young model and actress who serves as the show’s host and is also a judge; and, representing the professional art world, the three remaining judges -- art dealers Bill Powers and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and art critic Jerry Saltz.

As previously reported in Artnet News, the show features 14 largely unknown artists from around the country, who complete a series of "challenges" -- in the first episode, they have 24 hours to make a portrait of another contestant -- with the judges giving on-air "crits" of the resulting artworks. The judges eliminate one artist in each show, while the final winner gets a prize of $100,000 and an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. A few established artists also make appearances on the show: Jon Kessler, Andres Serrano and Richard Phillips.

How is it? Fascinating, full of snappy edits, with scenes of the artists talking, working and stressing out, all in one big shared studio. The nude -- arguably a key ingredient when it comes to art and popular appeal -- makes an all-too-brief appearance. The competing artists, who are all identified here, are cute, though fairly conventional in their art-making; the show could have benefited from a Duchampian or two. "Work of Art" has some drama, though the participants don’t display much cut-throat art-world competitiveness, at least not in the first episode.

The four judges, on the other hand, are paid to be tough, and tough they are (at least in the final edit). Saltz, who we all know as a pussycat (with sharp claws), seems cast in the Simon Cowell role. And together the judges have the unenviable task of sending one artist home each week, week after week.

Art professionals should enjoy shouting at their TVs, as the show’s judges make calls they disagree with. One aside: "Work of Art" makes it clear that the art itself is not the only thing that counts. The artist’s "character" -- whether he or she is attractive, or eccentric, or voluble -- and what he or she can contribute to the show itself can't help but play a part in the judging as well.

What about the show at the Brooklyn Museum? Don’t museums like to organize their own exhibitions as a rule? "Maybe someone should tell them," quipped Parker. A marginally more serious answer came from Dan Cutforth, another producer of the show. "We just asked," he said. "We didn’t bribe them or anything." At this point, Saltz joked, "Who knew it was so easy!"

"The Brooklyn Museum is always interested in experimenting for the benefit of our audience," deputy director Charles Desmarais told Artnet News, noting that this particular project is not that different from any juried show. "The ways that people participate in art are changing, and the museum is deeply engaged in social networking and other types of communication," he said. "This is to me along the same lines, a small experiment but a worthwhile one."

Meanwhile, back at the press conference, someone queried Parker as to whether she thought "Work of Art" might somehow foster "real" art. She was ready with an artful answer, saying, "We hope the show can provoke thoughtful discussions about art, as part of a bigger conversation we want Americans to have."

As for the wider audience, the show could face tough going, viz., gossip blogger Perez Hilton, who writes in a dispatch today, "Hopefully, these artsy fartsy types bring the drama. Otherwise, SJP will have to make an appearance on every episode just to keep the show on the air!"

Less than a month before the opening of "Contemporary Art Iraq" at Manchester’s Cornerhouse Art Gallery, five Iraqi artists who were to represent their country at the exhibition premiere have been denied entry into the UK. None of them, apparently, could provide proof of an Iraqi bank account, a requirement of the UK Border Agency -- but something difficult to come by in Iraq, which has a ravaged banking infrastructure. Hotel rooms in Manchester as well as return flights to Iraq had already been booked for the artists, who had traveled to Beirut to facilitate visa processing. In all, more than £10,000 in expenses has already been racked up in connection with the artists’ planned appearance, according to the Independent. The artists are Julie Adnan, Azar Othman Mahmud, Sarwar Mohamed, Shaho Abdul Rahman and Falah Shakarchi.

The Cornerhouse exhibition, which focuses on the work of 19 contemporary Iraqi artists, is expected to take place as planned, Apr. 16-June 20, 2010. Whether British foreign secretary David Miliband, scheduled to speak at the opening alongside the artists, will still show his face remains to be seen.

A consortium of groups representing photographers and illustrators filed a class-action lawsuit against Google on Apr. 7, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming that the search giant’s ongoing project to scan all of the world’s books violates their intellectual property rights, and seeking to get a piece of the "Google books pie," in the words of E-Commerce Times.

The professional organizations represented by the suit are the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association and the Professional Photographers of America. Among the more than 10,000 individuals represented in the suit are photographers Leif Skoogfors, Al Satterwhite, Morton Beebe and Ed Kashi, and illustrators John Schmelzer and Simmis Taback.

Apparently, ASMP attempted to join in a class-action lawsuit filed by writers and publishers -- which is still pending -- but the court denied its request, so the group opted to launch a separate visual arts lawsuit. As for the goals of the suit, ASMP executive director Eugene Mopsik told E-Commerce Times, "Our primary interest is being at the table so we can establish a system of how we can deal with this in the future." Compensation for the already-scanned images is a secondary issue, according to Mopsik.

Nevertheless, the suit threatens to impose up to $150,000 in damages for each of the tens of thousands of images already scanned, stored and electronically displayed, according to an article at the Huffington Post. The suit alleges that "Google's plans will diminish the value of pictures and art in the books, causing the photographers and artists to lose profits and opportunities and have their reputations damaged." Google, for its part, maintains that its Google Books project meets international copyright laws.

SOFA New York
, Apr. 16-19, 2010, brings almost 60 galleries specializing in "sculpture, objects & functional art" to the Park Avenue Armory, with the Apr. 15 gala preview benefiting the Museum of Art and Design. Highlights include new large fiber-tapestry reliefs by the veteran textile artist Ritzi Jacobi at browngrotta arts from Wilton, Conn.; sensuous biomorphic sculptures made of burnished steel nails and charred wood by Korean artist Jaehyo Lee at CRFA (Cynthia Reeves Fine Art) from New York; abstracted sculptures of kimonos made from salvaged steel by Gordon Chandler at Ferrin Gallery from Pittsfield, Mass.; shell-inspired Shigaraki clay ceramics by Japanese artist Koike Shoko at Joan B Mirviss Ltd from New York; and 3D collages by bead artist Jan Huling at Lyons Wier Gallery from New York. General admission is $25, and includes the show catalogue.

Legendary master art dealer Richard Feigen is putting his private collection of Italian paintings on view at the Yale University Art Gallery next month for the first time. "Italian Paintings from the Richard L. Feigen Collection," May 28-Sept. 12, 2010, presents over 50 works from the 14th through the 16th century, including three paintings by Fra Angelico, Jacopo Zucchi’s The Crucifixion (ca. 1583) and Alessandro Allori’s Christ Carrying the Cross (ca. 1591-95). Also included are two Baroque masterpieces, Annibale Carracci’s Virgin and Child with Saint Lucy and the Young Saint John the Baptist (ca. 1587-88) and Orazio Gentileschi’s Danaë and the Shower of Gold (1621-22). The show is accompanied by a catalogue.

Berkeley Art Museum director Lawrence Rinder dropped something of a stink bomb on the New York art world with his feverish art-world novel, Revenge of the Decorated Pigs, which some have claimed features characters that oddly resemble actual artists, critics and curators from circa 2002, when Rinder was curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art (for the record, the book’s publisher claims that it’s pure fiction, with no relation to reality, i.e., all those insider dealings by museum trustees depicted in the book certainly never happened at the Whitney).

At any rate, New Yorkers can meet the man himself this weekend, courtesy of the innovative online magazine Triple Canopy, which is hosting Rinder’s small, experimental Portland, Ore.-based publisher, Publication Studio, at its project space at 177 Livingston, in downtown Brooklyn, Apr. 9-10, 2010.

For the residency, Publication Studio is setting up a pop-up storefront at the Triple Canopy space, 10 am-4 pm, where it will hawk its wares -- so if you are looking for a copy of Revenge of the Decorated Pigs, now’s your chance. As for Rinder, he is featured at an Apr. 9 event (with $1 beer and wine) at the space, at 7 pm, alongside moderator Mattathias Schwartz, OR Books co-founder Colin Robinson, Triple Canopy’s Peter Russo, What We Are Learning author Colin Beattie and ex-Enron executive  Pravin Jain. The topic of their discussion will be "What is publication?" and "What good are bookstores?"

In case you miss this event, a party on Apr. 10, at 8 pm, features, among other good things, projected photos by current Whitney Biennial star Ari Marcopoulos. Info about the event can be found here.

Veteran New York art dealer Ron Jagger -- who was director of the recently closed Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York for more than 25 years -- launches a new venture, Ron Jagger Fine Art, with "The Art of Anthony De Bernardin," an exhibition of the quirky portraits and whimsical landscape paintings by the self-taught, Italian-immigrant artist from Pennsylvania, opening on Apr. 15, 2010, at 236 West 26th Street, suite 503.

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