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Artnet News
Mar. 12, 2010 

TWOMBLY CEILING AT THE LOUVRE
Set to debut Mar. 25 at the Musée du Louvre in Paris is an immense new work by American painter Cy Twombly for the Salle des Bronzes. The work is said to be an abstract "skyscape" in blue, complementing another, more modest ceiling work by George Braque in the adjacent Salle Henri II, which features three paintings of birds on a blue sky. The Twombly has been in the works for the last year, and is being made on strips of canvas measured to fit the space, which will be connected and glued to the chamber’s ceiling (a process known as "marouflage"). According to a 2009 article in the American Scholar, Twombly’s vision for the ceiling has been executed by a team that includes Lexington, Va., painter Barbara Crawford, who has served as "eyes, ears, and hands for the actual painting of the canvas" for the older artist. Pictures of Crawford at work can be seen here.

MUSEUM OF CHIHULY "STUFF" FOR SEATTLE?
"I'm just going to put all my stuff in here." So says artist Dale Chihuly, explaining the rather half-baked plans for a giant new 44,550-square-foot exhibition hall to be plopped into primo public real estate at the foot of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle in downtown Seattle. The quote comes via artist Norie Sato, the sole artistic representative on the Seattle Design Commission, who was also the lone vote against the plan at the January meeting where it was introduced. Since then, Seattle Stranger critic Jen Graves has published a worrying expose of the scheme calling it a "huge, new, ill-defined pay-to-play tourist attraction." The for-profit initiative is backed by the wealthy Howard Wright family, which owns the Space Needle and would pay for construction, and is conceived of as a revenue-generator for the Seattle Center, which operates on the model of a public-private partnership, and is strapped for cash.

The Chihuly exhibition hall has already advanced to the design phase, despite having no clearly defined mission. Graves reports that it will contain 21,500 square feet of exhibition space, and go without curators. The notes of the planning meeting, according to Graves, say both that "this will be a permanent installation of Chihuly work" and that "uncertainty exists as to how often it might change." Chihuly, of course, is known for his spectacular and unique glass works, and is probably Seattle’s most famous living artist, though in recent years he has prompted some controversy [see Artnet News, Aug. 17, 2006].

Although a museum of Chihuly glass would seem to be a big win for Seattle Center, the city has good cause to go slow on such projects. Seattle Center is already saddled with one white elephant, the Experience Music Project, an initiative of Microsoft mega-patron Paul Allen, who apparently thought that a James Brown-themed "motion platform" ride (Funk Blast) was just what the city needed. Housed in a gaudy $240-million Frank Gehry-designed building meant to evoke a smashed guitar, the EMP is thought by many Seattle residents to be an eyesore. As Graves generously puts it, the EMP has "only occasionally been able to transcend its under-thought beginnings as a vanity project."

But finally, the biggest loser in the event that the new Chihuly glass pavilion goes up might well be neighboring Tacoma, Wash., which has bet big on being a being an attraction for glass art fans, with a Museum of Glass, and a "Chihuly Bridge of Glass" [see "The House that Glass Built," Nov. 14, 2005]

LOST PENIS SCULPTURE FINDS FAME ON INTERNET
In the end, having his penis stolen may be the best thing that happened to Mark Billy. The artist and former intern at the X-Initiative in Chelsea got a chance to display some of his own work at the scrappy nonprofit’s final show, the 24-hour art festival "Bring Your Own Art," and chose to offer Don’t Touch Mark Billy, four convincing, life-size casts of his own penis in different colored resins, displayed on a mirrored plinth, each delicately embellished with beard trimmings to enhance the realism. During the booze-fueled overnight revelry at X, one of the penises vanished, presumably spirited off by an admirer.

That’s not the end of the story, however. Not taking the loss laying down, Billy went on to post a plaintive Craigslist ad, asking for information about a "Lost penis sculpture. Last seen on February 4th, 2010 around 1 a.m. on display during the art show BYOA at X Initiative located on 548 W 22nd St." The listing drew enough attention that it got a mention in Gothamist. The photo from Artnet Magazine’s Twitter coverage of "Bring Your Own Art" has received more than 35,000 views -- many times more than the number of people who saw it at "Bring Your Own Art" itself. If you have any updates on the whereabouts of the work, the artist can be contacted through his website http://www.markbilly.net

DENVER BIENNIAL SCALES BACK, PRESSES FORWARD
"In the historic tradition of Venice and Sao Paolo, the world’s newest international contemporary art biennial is coming to Denver, Colorado." Or so we were told when plans for the inaugural 2010 Biennial of the Americas in the Mile High City were announced back in 2008, with mayor George Hickenlooper trumpeting that "from the tip of the Tierra del Fuego to the Northern Hudson Bay, we will bring together and showcase the best contemporary artists of all the Americas in what will become one of the major art celebrations in this part of the world." That was two years ago. Now, one global financial crisis and several re-conceptions later, the Biennial of the Americas is finally ready to debut, July 1-31, 2010.

According to a recent article in the Denver Post, the biennial’s plans remain ambitious, despite the fact that the organization is still scrambling to raise some $3.5 million in capital from private donors ($2 million in seed money originally given by the Boettcher Foundation). The festival had originally been set to have a seven-week run, but had to be scaled back. Also, its focus on contemporary art has been considerably softened, with organizers now pitching it more as a "hemis-fair," a mix of political meet-up and world’s fair, centering on panels featuring political luminaries, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, and former Latin-American leaders like Vicente Fox, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Alejandro Toledo.

The event does still include some fine art content. Mexican curator Paola Santoscoy, a 2009 grad of visual and critical studies at the California College of the Arts and former associate curator at the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City, was hired in January to put together the contemporary art programming -- a staggeringly short timeframe in which to organize a major show. Her exhibition, dubbed "The Nature of Things," focuses on four categories mandated by the organizers: innovation, sustainability, community and arts. Artists so far selected include Brigida Baltar, Santiago Cucullu, Jeronimo Hagerman and Gabriel Acevedo Velarde. Still, the Biennial of the Americas organizers told the Denver Post that they hoped to see "busloads of wide-eyed families take free shuttles among dynamic art displays downtown."

CASTELLI BIO DUE IN MAY
French author Annie Cohen-Solal’s biography of contemporary art dealer Leo Castelli (1907-1999), already published in France (where it was called "a monument" and "staggering"), comes out in English from Alfred A. Knopf on May 19, 2010. The 525-page Leo and His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli, which retails at $30, chronicles the rise of Pop art, its conquest of Europe starting with the 1964 Venice Biennale, and the spread of Castelli’s influence to cities throughout the U.S. via "satellite galleries," as well as the move of the New York art world to SoHo in the 1970s. The book includes more than 100 illustrations, and also spends its first 135 pages tracing the history of the Castelli family in Europe; Castelli arrived in New York in 1941, and didn’t open his gallery until 15 years later, at the age of 50.

BLINKY PALERMO RETRO SET
The Dia Art Foundation and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) are collaborating on a major retrospective of German Pop abstractionist Blinky Palermo (1943-1977), a hard-living colleague of Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys who died of circulatory collapse in the Maldives at age 34. Organized by Lynne Cooke, the show includes approximately 60 works, many never before seen in the U.S. The show debuts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Oct. 31, 2010-Jan. 16, 2011, and subsequently appears at the Hirshhorn Museum, Feb. 24-May 15, 2011, before splitting into two parts at Dia:Beacon and CCS Bard, June 25-Oct. 31, 2011. The accompanying catalogue, co-published by Dia and Yale University Press, includes essays by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Suzanne Hudson, Susanne Küper and James Lawrence.

SHIRIN NESHAT, CANDY DARLING IN NYC FILM FEST
The forthcoming "New Directors / New Films" festival at Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, Mar. 24-Apr. 4, 2010, presents 38 films from 20 countries, including several of specific interest to the fine art world. Among them:

* Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar, written and directed by James Raisin, is an 82-minute-long bio-doc of the New York drag queen who died at age 30, with appearances by Penny Arcade, Fran Lebowitz and John Waters, with Candy’s letters and diaries read by Chloë Sevigny.

* Shirin Neshat’s Women without Men, the Persian artist’s first feature film (directed in collaboration with Shoja Azari), follows the stories of four women from 1950s Iran, acted by Pegah Ferydoni, Arita Shahrzad, Shabnam Tolouei and Orsi Toth. Released by Indiepix, the film is 100 minutes long.

* Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary by Richard Press on the life and times of the octogenarian New York Times photographer, celebrated for traveling the streets on his Schwinn bicycle to high-society benefits, galas and fashion shows. The movie is the opening night feature of "New Directors / New Films."

Tickets go on sale Mar. 14; for details, see www.newdirectors.org.


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