PAINTER EXCLUDED FROM INDIA ART SUMMIT
For the second year in a row, one of India’s swankiest art events, the India Art Summit, is being overshadowed by terrorism threats. The event is set to bow Aug. 19-22, 2009, at the Pragati Maidan exhibition center in New Dehli, with 54 galleries -- primarily from India, but including a handful from the U.S. (Aicon Gallery, Thomas Erben) and the UK (Artquest, Lisson, Rob Dean Art and W.H. Patterson). At the inaugural India Art Summit in 2008, controversy swirled around the organizers’ prohibition of the display of works by M.F. Husain (b. 1915), following threats from right-wing Hindu groups. The ban has been repeated for the 2009 edition, to the dismay of Husain’s dealers, members of the Indian art community and relatives of the 93-year-old artist.
Husain is regularly referred to as a "legend" of the Indian art world. One of his paintings, Battle of Ganga and Jamuna, Mahabharata 12 (1971-1972), sold for $1,609,000 at Christie’s New York last year. His achievements, however, have been somewhat overshadowed in recent years by a few controversial works depicting Hindu goddesses Durga and Saraswati in the buff (the artist himself is a Muslim), which have inflamed religious sentiments. Threats against his life led him to go into self-imposed exile in 2006 -- according to the New York Times, at one point there was even an $11-million bounty on his head -- and he now divides his time between homes in London and Dubai.
On Sunday, organizers of the India Art Summit released a statement once again forbidding inclusion of Husain’s work by exhibitors. "While we acknowledge the lifelong achievements and the iconic status of artists like M.F. Husain in Indian art," it read, "we are unable to put the entire collective concern at risk by showcasing artists who have, in the past, been received with hostility by certain sections of the society unless we receive protection from the government and the Delhi police."
In 2008, the exclusion of Husain drew the attention of foreign luminaries like Robert Storr, who was quoted as saying that "if you have one of the most famous artists of India not present then people should think twice about how it happened." Within India, the incident stirred enough passion that a group of supporters, the SAHMAT collective, organized an exhibition of reproductions of Husain works at India International Centre in protest -- though anti-Husain vandals did in fact disrupt this show, giving some credence to the fair’s concerns.
Still, the exclusion of such a blue chip painter is a blow to the credibility of an event that aspires to be the apex of the Indian art world. Ashish Anand of Delhi Art Gallery told the Calcutta Telegraph that he had intended to show five of Husain’s early works at the Summit, plans that obviously have to be rethought, while Peter Nagy of Gallery Nature Morte told the CNN-IBN news network, "If you can’t show Husain in an art fair in the capital then where else?" From his exile, Husain himself seems to have shrugged off the controversy, saying simply that "it’s all part of a 15-year-struggle."
For more info on India Art Summit, see www.indiaartsummit.com
NEW MUNICIPAL ART FAIR SET FOR L.A.
This fall, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park is hosting its own L.A. art fair to celebrate the city’s burgeoning contemporary art gallery scene. The "Beyond Eden Art Fair," Oct. 9-11, 2009, showcases more than 15 local galleries in the historic 10,000-square-foot facility; participants include Billy Shire, Black Maria, Carmichael, Copro, DRKRM, Gallery 1988, La Luz De Jesus, LeBasse Projects, New Image Art, Nucleus, Subliminal Projects, Synchronicity Space and Thinkspace. Admission is free. For more info, watch www.beyondedenartfair.com
MORE ON MUSEUM FOR GAP FOUNDERS
Faced with vocal community opposition, Gap founder Don Fisher and his family have given up on a plan to build a museum for their art collection in San Francisco’s Presidio park. What’s next? The answer to that question is unclear, but San Francisco Chronicle urban design writer John King has an idea -- build the new museum in Sue Bierman Park, a 90,000-square-foot bit of green near the Embarcadero that is surrounded by "broad streets on all sides" (and that remains unnamed on Google Maps). King goes on to note that he wouldn’t blame the Fisher family if it kept its art collection private.
In the meantime, he identifies several other sites in the city, many along the waterfront, that have potential for a new art museum; Crissy Field, a location on the bay in the Presidio; Jessie Square, a plot across from Yerba Buena Gardens, next to the Contemporary Jewish Museum (and a location originally earmarked for the Mexican Museum); SF MOMA, in a as-yet-to-be-built addition; South Beach, in a parking lot on the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge; and 5 Mission Creek, a triangular site in the emerging Mission Bay district, not far from the ballpark.
STUDENTS FOR A FREE TIBET FUNDRAISER
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation, Students for a Free Tibet is having a one-night art fundraiser at New York’s Art in General, Aug. 1, from 5-10 pm. The evening is to be highlighted by a "live painting" event, a collaboration between Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol and American counterpart Damion Silver. Highlights of the art for sale include pieces by U.S.-based Tibetan artist Losang Gyatso, and photos by Sonam Zoksang, known for moving documentary images of his homeland. "In addition to raising funds for Tibet, we really wanted to make the art affordable so that our peers -- other activists and artists -- will actually be able to walk into a gallery show of great contemporary art and walk out with an original piece for $100," said organizer Jonathan Hulland.
An online auction of works is taking bids July 24-Aug. 1, and is accessible at http://benefitevents.com/auctions/sft2009/
EMMY NODS FOR TWO ART DOCS
Director Jeff Stimmel’s compelling portrait of Philadelphia-based contemporary figurative painter Chuck Connelly, the HBO-produced The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not for Sale, has been nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Arts & Culture Program." The film boasts cameos by Artnet Magazine columnists Mark Kostabi and Walter Robinson, and was covered in this space by Charlie Finch ["Pain Is the Name of the Game," July 11, 2008.
Also nominated in the same category is PBS’s Belarusian Waltz, a doc about political performance artist Alexander Pushkin, who uses parodies of patriotism to protest against the government of Belarus, which has been called "Europe’s last dictatorship." The movie is directed by Polish filmmaker Andrzej Fidyk. Other films nominated in the category include a 60 Minutes profile of Alec Baldwin; the PBS film In the Footsteps of Marco Polo; Salim Baba, an HBO documentary on a traveling cinema in India; and Drama High, an ABC News story about high school students auditioning for The Wiz.
ART CRITIC TURNS PLAYWRIGHT
Time is growing short -- buy your tickets now! Couples Counseling, the new play by art critic and curator Carey Lovelace, a former co-president of the U.S chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, is being presented for three performances only at the 59E59 Theaters in New York on July 31 and Aug. 1, 2009, before departing for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it plays for two weeks in August. Starring Jack Gilpin, James B. Kennedy and Anna Margaret Hollyman, and directed by Judith Stevens-Ly, Couples Counseling "charts a journey through the tribulations of a love triangle between a psychiatrist and a couple whose relationship is wildly unraveling." And it has been called "very, very funny." Tickets are $18; call (212) 279-4200.
GUGG BUYS PALESTINIAN ART FROM SHARJAH BIENNIAL
The Guggenheim Museum has purchased a video installation by Palestinian artist Sharif Waked that originally appeared at the 2009 Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates, according to a report on Haaretz.com. The new acquisition is provocative in its subject matter: the video appears to be the final message of a suicide bomber, but substitutes for the soundtrack stories from The Thousand and One Nights, metaphorically delaying the moment of death. Waked’s work is also included in "The Thousand and One Nights," July 7-Aug. 8, 2009, a show of contemporary art from Palestine at Postmasters Gallery in New York City.
BELGIAN BIENNIAL OF THE MOVING IMAGE
Contour 2009, the 4th Biennial of the Moving Image, Aug. 15-Oct. 18, 2009, converts the Belgian town of Mechelen, located midway between Brussels and Antwerp, into one big video installation. Or so it seems, as a dozen different sites in the town center host exhibitions or installations of video art by 18 artists, including Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Yael Bartana, Michaël Borremans, Matthew Buckingham and T.J. Wilcox. The show, under the general supervision of Brussels-based curator Katerina Gregos, has the overall title of "Hidden in Remembrance Is the Silent Memory of our Future." For more info, see www.contour2009.be
TEL AVIV BIENNIAL IS BACK
Get ready for the second edition of Art TLV, Sept. 24-Oct. 9, 2009, a biennial exhibition that this year plans to integrate itself into "a Mediterranean artistic-cultural triangle, alongside the Athens and the Istanbul biennials." Organized by independent curator Edna Moshenson, former Tel Aviv Museum of Art curator Maayan Shellef, and artist-curator Michael Kessus Gedalyowitch, Art TLV 09 is being mounted as part of a city-wide cultural festival celebrating the centennial of Israel’s capital city.
MUSEUM PRODUCTS ONLINE
An internet merchandiser’s dream -- aggregate all the products individual museums and nonprofit galleries produce for their museum stores -- including prints and editions by artists -- and sell it all online. Say hello to www.culturelabel.com, a London-based company that is launching "the first multibrand retail platform to showcase the best artist-designed products and limited editions from leading culture brands," all in time for Christmas 2009. Despite the jargon, the selection is fairly appealing, especially for the bohemian in search of the perfectly eccentric housewarming present. The merch ranges from a "Build a Mini Cooper kit" (£10 from the Museum of London) to a pillowcase designed embroidered with "Je t’aime," after a design by Louise Bourgeois (£24.47, from Tate).