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Apr. 18, 2011

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Demonstrators around the world gathered peacefully in front of Chinese consulates and embassies to demand the release of Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei, 53, has been held incommunicado by Chinese government authorities since his arrest on trumped-up charges on Apr. 3, 2011. Adding a new wrinkle to the notion of a “sit-down protest,” many participants brought chairs in imitation of the artist’s 2007 performance at Documenta 12, which placed 1,001 antique Chinese chairs around the German city. The idea for the protest was suggested on Facebook by curator Steven Holmes.

Demonstrations took place in at least 36 cities around the world, according to press reports. In Berlin, Ai Weiwei’s sister, Gao Ge, told a German news agency that she doubted the demonstrations would free her brother, but said they couldn’t hurt. Roger Burgell, co-curator of Documenta 12, took part in the German demonstration.

In New York, hundreds of protestors gathered in front of the Chinese consulate on West Street and 42nd Street, though the group was moved across the street by New York city police, according to Anne Pasternak, the director of Creative Time and an organizer of the demonstration.

With the exhibition “Art in the Streets,” Apr. 17-Aug. 8, 2011, at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, museum director Jeffrey Deitch has now enshrined “graffiti art” in the palace of high culture.

And the right wing doesn’t like it. The first frothing review of the show, dubbed “Crime in the Museums” and authored by dependable New York Post op-ed reactionary meanie Heather MacDonald, has already appeared in City Journal, a quarterly publication of a conservative “think tank” in New York. “Sponsored by L.A. aristocracy,” reads the opening blurb, the show “celebrates vandalism.”

More wild-eyed analysis follows: MOCA is “indifferent to the destruction of other people’s property”; the show is “abominably irresponsible,” “filthy” and features works by “loathsome punks” and “thugs”; and, in the “food is bad and there’s so little of it” vein, the exhibition is short on “visual fireworks.”

MacDonald’s exercise in tendentiousness goes on at length, as she tries herself to deface several exhibits in the show, but is stopped by guards. As is often evident with the right-wing, the bottom line is “do as I say, not as I do.” For the whole megillah, click here.

Visitors to the 54th Venice Biennale this summer, June 4-Nov. 27, 2011, have an opportunity to check out the art scene of the 16-year-old Turkic republic of Azerbaijan, located in the Caucasus between Russia and Iran. London-based curator Mila Askarova, founder of the Gazelli Art House, which operates a gallery in London, is commissioner for the Azerbaijani entry, which can be seen at the 18th-century Palazzo Benzon on the Grand Canal. The show? “Relational, of Bakû” -- Baku is of course the capital of Azerbaijan -- features works by two generations of artists: Mikayil Abdurahamanov, Zeigam Azizov, Khanlar Gasimov, Altai Sadighzadeh, Aidan Salakhova and Aga Ousseinov. The artist Aidan, who operates a Moscow gallery under her own name is well known as one of the movers and shakers of the Moscow contemporary art world.

Mimmo Paladino
(b. 1948), one of the leaders of the 1980s Transavanguardia art movement, is celebrated for his humanist abstractions, often featuring “everyman” portraits. Now, he has decorated a Piaggio P. 180 Avanti turboprop jet with a whimsical blue-and-white star map, and put it on display in Milan at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Dubbed Cacciatore di Stelle (Star Hunter), the plane is part of a retrospective of Paladino’s work at the Palazzo Reale.

Do you watch the teen soap opera "Gossip Girl" on the CW network? No? Well, perhaps you should start tonight, as New York artist Laurie Simmons makes a guest appearance on the series, Monday, Apr. 18, 2011, at 9 pm EST. Simmons plays herself, shooting a portrait of the fictional Upper East Side van der Woodsen family, a photo that is revealed at the end of the show.

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