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Jan. 18, 2010

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Finnish Mayor Jussi Pajunen wants to redevelop the city’s extensive waterfront district, and thinks a new satellite of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by the Gugg’s go-to architect, Frank Gehry, may be just the thing. To this end, the Gugg is undertaking a feasibility study, for which it is being paid $2.5 million, due to be completed by the end of the year. A jolly photo in the New York Times shows Pajunen, Gugg director Richard Armstrong and three other officials posing with snowballs -- a notably cheerful approach to a subject that has been rife with controversy.

Thomas Krens, Armstrong’s predecessor as Guggenheim director, was harshly criticized for squandering institutional energy on his vision of a global network of Guggenheim museums, which included proposals for facilities in Austria, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Taiwan, all of which came to naught. But with time, Krens’ scheme is paying off, at least at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. According to a report quoted by the NYT, in its first five years that museum generated more than $1 billion in economic activity in the region, ten times the museum’s cost, and now generates $300 million in business a year.

In addition to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Guggenheim operates the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and collaborates with Deutsche Bank on the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. The museum’s new Gehry-designed branch in Abu Dhabi, financed by the local government but managed by the Gugg, is slated to open in 2013.

With art fairs opening momentarily in New York, Los Angeles, Palm Beach and online [see Artnet News, Jan. 6, 2011], it seems more than a little compulsive to focus now on new satellite fairs for Armory Show Week in the first part of March 2011. Still, one must plan ahead, and thus we have Moving Image, Mar. 3-6, 2011, a fair of contemporary video art just announced by Chelsea art dealer Edward Winkelman and co-organized with Penny Pilkington and Wendy Olsoff of P.P.O.W. gallery. The fair, whose exhibitor list is still in formation, takes place in the Tunnel event space that stretches from West Street to 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th streets in Manhattan. Admission is free.

Also on the schedule is Art Brooklyn, Mar. 3-6, 2011, an art fair "without precedent" that is nonetheless sponsored by the people who brought you the Verge Art Fair in Miami Beach. Boasting artists from all five boroughs, even Staten Island, as well as exhibition spaces priced at a mere $500 (for a 100-square-foot booth), the fair is to be spread throughout various spaces in DUMBO, in partnership with Two Trees Management, the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office. The scheme includes an open call exhibition, though it has a $50 entry fee.

The European supercollector Axel Vervoordt has long made his headquarters in the Dutch town of Wijnegem, where his various activities -- art and antiques, home design, real estate -- operated out of a brick-and-concrete former malting plant known as Kanaal. Now, the new Axel Vervoordt Gallery is slated to open in Antwerp, Jan. 27, 2011, overseen by Boris Vervoordt, one of Axel’s sons (the other is Dick Vervoordt).

The new gallery is specializing in works by both the 1950s Düsseldorf-based artist group ZERO and the Gutai group, founded in Japan in the 1950s. As it happens, the Vlaeykensgang address where the gallery is situated is precisely where Vervoordt presented a solo show of work by Jef Verheyen in 1974, an event at which his relationship with ZERO artists was catalyzed, and which led later to his exploration of the Gutai movement. The inaugural show features works from Günther Uecker’s 1999 Black Rain series.

Flemish artist Jan Fabre, celebrated for his life-sized figure sculptures made from dried beetles as well as his over-the-top installation in the Palazzo Benzon in the 2007 Venice Biennale, is bringing his act to. . .  New Jersey. The Alexander Kasser Theater in Montclair, N.J., presents Fabre’s 90-minute-long Prometheus-Landscape II, Jan. 20-30, 2011, a version of the Aeschylus play Prometheus Bound that promises to offer "a combination of humor, shock, physical artistry and technical magic -- like nothing ever seen on the American stage before." Tickets are $15.

Artist Pamela Masik now seeks a new venue for her controversial painting exhibition "The Forgotten," which was slated to open next month at the UBC Museum of Anthropology but cancelled due to criticism by aboriginal women’s groups. According to Vancouver’s Campbell River Mirror, the series depicts 69 murdered and missing women -- many of them known victims of serial killer Robert Pickton -- and was deemed "hurtful and exploitative" by opponents of the show. Others, including a number of victims’ family members, supported the exhibition. Masik now aims to bring her work to the national stage and is in the process of finding another exhibition space, with her eye on one in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city.

Iranian-born New York artist Amir Baradaran, who proposed marriage to Marina Abramovic during her infamous silent MoMA sit-in last fall, and also put short vids of cab drivers staring into their rearview mirrors on the screens in the back seats of New York taxicabs, takes his act to cyber-Paris on Jan. 27, 2011, when he plans to infiltrate the Louvre with a work that appears to vandalize the Mona Lisa.

Baradaran’s 52-second video performance, dubbed Frenchising Mona Lisa, actually takes place in your smart-phone after you download a special augmented-reality browser app from Junaio’s website. After Jan. 27, when equipped smart-phones are pointed at any image of the Mona Lisa -- whether in the real world, in a printed reproduction or on a computer screen -- the app streams a modified image of Leonardo’s painting in which the Mona Lisa appears to lift her hands and don a tricolored French flag in the manner of a Muslim hijab.

According to Baradaran, the work not only engages with issues of immigration and cultural censorship, hot topics in France, but also challenges the notion of curatorial control in the digital age. Nothing physically happens in the Louvre itself, of course, though the launch of the application coincides with a performance by Baradaran at New York’s Benrimon Contemporary art gallery. Baradaran is also releasing a manifesto for "FutARism," a movement purporting to embrace the potential of "Augmented Reality."

A bronze sculpture of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee, done in the style of Marcel Duchamp’s celebrated 1919 assisted readymade L.H.O.O.Q., is slated to go on view in Southwood Garden in London, Feb. 2-May 8, 2011. The sculpture is the work of artist Subodh Gupta, who is perhaps better known for his agglomerations of stainless steel pots and pans, and is overseen by Hauser & Wirth London as part of its outdoor sculpture program, which was inaugurated in Sept. 2009.

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