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Artnet News
Sept. 23, 2010

Art has put Turkey in the international spotlight -- but not in the way that its artists might have hoped. Late Tuesday night, a violent mob attacked the "Tophane Art Walk" in what appeared to be a planned assault on Istanbul’s fledgling Tophane arts district. The mob beat visitors with clubs, assailed them with pepper spray and broke windows. Four galleries were hit successively: Elipsis, NON, Pi and Outlet. The assault has been front-page news in Turkey.

"It was a nightmare," Turkish artist Burak Arikan told Artnet News. "Blood was everywhere."

At least five people were injured during the attack. Arikan says he saw a friend, NON gallery artist Nazim Hikmet Richard Dikbas, smashed in the head with a club.

The motive behind the violence is not immediately clear, and remains the object of speculation in Turkey. Some Western media reports have asserted that it was the work of Islamic conservatives enraged by alcohol consumption at the galleries. Those familiar with Tophane, however, had a more complex story.

In a pattern followed the world over, galleries have moved into a relatively rundown neighborhood in search of cheap rent, and have succeeded in making it a center of attention. This gentrification has apparently strained relationships with some local residents.

"This assault has nothing to do with the actual artworks in the gallery," Arikan stressed. "It is against the people, the art people, gallery goers, etc. It is a class difference. Social class difference causes this problem -- but violence shouldn't be the reaction."

Arikan also speculated that the motives might have included Turkish ultra-nationalism. "Many foreign guests were around," he said, adding "We look like ‘hipsters’ here in the context of Tophane."

Locals interviewed by the Hürriyet Daily News, meanwhile, seemed united in saying that the attack had begun as a "verbal confrontation between some gallery visitors who were smoking in the street, drinks in hand, and a woman wearing a chador." Curiously, they also insisted that it was not organized, and did not involve weapons.

A police investigation has led nowhere so far. Seven suspects were detained relating to the attacks, but all were released.

The current political scene in Turkey is marked by tensions over the country’s tradition of secularism, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan generally fomenting conservative religious values, including opposition to the consumption of alcohol. This situation has led some artists to worry that they can expect little official protection from the authorities.

"Artists literally do not feel safe in Istanbul!" Arikan said.

On Thursday, the Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Günay visited the Tophane galleries to survey the situation. Arikan gave the minister a copy of an international news story on the assault, to remind him that attacks on artists and galleries were a disgrace for Turkey internationally.

What is to be done? Arikan said that international pressure was important. "Support from the international art and culture community is necessary. This will be an ongoing issue. These galleries have to stay on and safe. . . we need international visibility for this event, so that it creates pressure on the government. Such pressure would cause a chain reaction, from top to bottom, so that we can get viable, peaceful Tophane."

Those with more questions can write

Miami art dealer Gary Nader has issued an open call for his new Miami Sculpture Biennial, Nov. 29, 2010-Jan. 31, 2011, to take place along the Biscayne Boulevard corridor in downtown Miami, from the Intercontinental Hotel to the American Airlines Arena, with some indoor venues along the way. Artists, galleries and museums who wish to participate are urged to apply to (with a brief statement, CV and jpg) by Oct. 8, 2010. Overseeing the submissions is critic and curator Ricardo Pau-Llosa. Nader already has already got a global lineup of artists for the event, including Fernando Botero, Enrique Martinez Celaya, John Chamberlain, Sandro Chia, Olafur Eliasson, John Henry, Thomas Houseago, Robert Indiana, Henry Moore, Mimmo Paladino, Sophia Vari and Bernar Venet, among others.

The Pop sculptor George Segal (1924-2000) had a retrospective at the Jewish Museum in 1998, and more recently an exhibition of his plaster tableaux at L&M Arts at the beginning of 2010. Now, Maxwell Davidson Gallery is giving us "George Segal: Women," Nov. 4-Dec. 23, 2010, featuring both sculptures and pastels, in the first show to focus solely on the New Jersey artist’s work with the female form. The show is organized with Carroll Janis and the George and Helen Segal Foundation.

The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University -- mired in a massive deaccessioning scandal for almost two years now -- may finally have succeeded in scheduling a fall show. At one point, the "Potemkin Museum" had announced an exhibition titled "Atmospheric Conditions" (to feature works by Eric Fischl, April Gornik and Bill Viola) and then a survey of works by James Rosenquist. Both exhibitions were canceled soon after they were announced.

Now, the Rose is readying not one but two shows, both from the museum collection and both to open Oct. 7, 2010: "WaterWays," featuring works by artists ranging from Milton Avery to William Kentridge, and "Regarding Painting," a survey of works from storage by Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein and Agnes Martin as well as Audrey Flack and Natalie Frank. The latter show is organized by Dabney Hailey, new director of academic programs at the Rose.

Probably the most historic event connected with the 2007 Venice Biennale -- the one featuring Robert Storr’s much-maligned exhibition, "Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind" -- was the spectacle of four of our top international curators (Francesco Bonami, Okwui Enwezor, Jessica Morgan and Storr) making fools of themselves in the letters pages of Artforum magazine, as they dumped assorted calumnies on each other’s esthetic efforts. You’d think that as back-scratching, log-rolling colleagues, they’d all get along.

The latest example of curatorial "not-noblesse oblige" comes courtesy Prospect New Orleans director Dan Cameron, who takes to the pages of something called Art it Magazine to slag off New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni’s work on the just-opened Gwangju Biennale, Sept. 3-Nov. 7, 2010. Though Cameron himself was once the reigning contemporary curator at the New Museum, a post that Gioni now holds, this conflict still allows him to be even-handed -- he calls the show "viscerally thrilling" and says Gioni is "one of the most gifted exhibition designers working today" before getting down to the harsh.

Gioni’s "bad curatorial habits," as Cameron sees them, include "a dismaying heavy bias towards successful artists and powerful dealers and collectors." Cameron pooh-poohs Gioni’s choice of works by Maurizio Cattelan, Fischli & Weiss, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Hirschhorn and others, as well as claiming that the "poorly lit" installation of Toronto collector Ydessa Hendeles’ vast trove of pictures of people with their teddy bears "does not justify itself in rewards for the viewer." He goes on to complain that Gioni is too Eurocentric, suggesting that he is not "even vaguely curious" about art from Africa, Australia, India or Russia. 

Meanwhile, we get our chance to see Cameron-the-curator in action in Prospect.1.5 New Orleans, Nov. 6, 2010-Feb. 19, 2011, a sort of "space-filler" (to appropriate a phrase from Cameron’s review of the Gwangju Biennale) presenting over 50 artists in 13 venues throughout the city, while we wait for the real show, Prospect.2.New Orleans, due a year from now. One-third of the artists in Prospect.1.5 are locals, including a new generation of young artists who have moved to the city since the 2005 hurricane.

Among the attractions are open studios, performances (including a tableau vivant performed on a flatbed truck), and an exhibition, "Fresh Off the Turnip Truck," showcasing work by eight artists at the Louisiana State Museum’s Madame John’s Legacy, an 18th-century building in the French Quarter. Also on the schedule is "The Angola Project," which features art by prisoners at the notorious state penitentiary.

It’s only a short flight from New York City to San Antonio, Texas, according to Matthew Drutt, the energetic executive director of Artpace San Antonio, the ten-year-old residency and exhibition space founded by the late salsa mogul Linda Pace. The institution’s artist-in-residence program hosts nine artists a year in groups of three, and is specifically designed to allow the fellows to complete a project that might otherwise be impossible. Resident artists, who are selected by guest curators, receive travel and living expenses, a production budget, and living, studio and exhibition space. At the end of the residency, the work they have made belongs to them.

At present, Artpace boasts a special exhibition by the New York artist Matthew Ronay called "Between the Worlds," Sept. 23, 2010-Jan. 2, 2011, and featuring "a primordial forest. . . of organic elements rendered in contrasting tones of darkness and brightness." Three artists have begun their residency, selected by Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago curator Michael Darling: Berlin-based painter Henning Bohl; Seattle sculptor and designer Roy McMakin; and Austin-based photographer Adam Schreiber. Their exhibition is scheduled for Nov. 18, 2010-Jan. 9, 2011.

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