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Artnet News
Nov. 10, 2009 

Obviously, hip-hop star Kanye West is not shy about anything, much less about his esthetic opinion (right, Taylor Swift?) -- but is he becoming today’s most influential art advocate? Well-known to art-world insiders as an art collector, Kanye has made several recent moves into what might be called the critical arena. The hip-hop star has a famous relationship with Japanese Pop Art wizard Takashi Murakami, of course, a collaboration that extended from a fully realized Murakami cartoon for the video for Good Morning, to collaborative jewelry design.

But his tastemaking efforts get more experimental still. Earlier this year, the clip for his single Welcome to Heartbreak was something of an ode to the phenomenon known as "glitch art" (the "estheticization of digital or analog errors," according to Wikipedia). As the video’s director, Nabil, admitted to MTV, the video owed a big debt to the Chicago-born artist Takeshi Murata, who happens to be on the roster at Deitch Projects in New York. Kanye has definitely joined the Deitch axis: Earlier this year, he produced the video version of Vanessa Beecroft’s performance’s VB64.

Going more obscure still, West is introducing the work of hand-drawn animation legend Bill Plympton to a whole new audience. His just-released musical memoir, Through the Wire: Lyrics & Illuminations, is a collaboration with the Portland, Ore.-based cartoonist, featuring illustrations for the lyrics to 12 Kanye tracks, each touching on a key aspect of his life so far, from "his days spent folding chinos at the Gap" to the present. The two men previously collaborated on a wistful pencil-drawn animation for the 2005 track Heard Em Say.

Still doubt the sincerity of Kanye’s artistic adventures? Head on over to his blog, and you will see that alongside shout-outs to pop peers like Shakira and Lil Wayne, he also dedicates an inordinate amount of time to posts on contemporary art: from the recently opened James Turrell space in Wolfsburg, to Daniel Libeskind’s crystal-form Spirit House Chair, to a collection of skin moisturizer designed by street-art legend KAWS, to a set of pictures of Urs Fischer’s show at the New Museum. Artists who want to get in on the party may post on the bulletin board at the Kanye University website.

If celebrity is at the heart of Andy Warhol’s art, then the humble Polaroid photo is its beating life-blood. And though the artist invariably documented the famous and the great as they passed through his studio, using many of the resulting photos as the basis for his portraits, after his death in 1987 the thousands of photographs he left behind were valued at zero -- that’s right, zero -- since he had never sold or shown them during his lifetime.

Much has changed in the intervening 22 years, and this weekend "Big Shots: Andy Warhol Polaroids," opens at the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, N.C., Nov. 12, 2009-Feb. 21, 2010, a sprawling exhibition of 250 Polaroids and 70 black-and-white prints taken from 1969 to ’86, many on public view for the first time. The show is drawn from a distribution of the photos by the Andy Warhol Foundation back in 2007, which saw about 100 Polaroids and 50 other photos gifted to the Nasher, the Ackland Art Museum in Chapell Hill and the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro. After debuting in Durham, "Big Shots" appears at the Weatherspoon, June 6-Sept. 19, 2010, and the Ackland, Oct. 2, 2010-Jan. 2, 2011.

For New Yorkers, a select group of Warhol Polaroids can be seen merely by traveling to Danziger Projects on West 24th Street in Chelsea, where can be viewed "Greatness: Andy Warhol Polaroids of Sports Champions," Oct. 31-Dec. 12, 2009. These rather impressive snapshots of Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Tom Seaver, O.J. Simpson, Chris Evert and other stars were taken by Warhol in 1977 as part of a commission for a series of ten portraits of sports figures by Los Angeles art collector Richard Weisman

Readers paying attention will remember that only a few months ago, the very same Weisman reported that the paintings made from these photographs had been stolen from his home, a report that was apparently viewed with some skepticism by police. Whether those works ever reappear or not, the original pictures remain -- and can be yours, at a price between $10,000 and $12,000. The auction record for a single Warhol Polaroid, by the way, is ca. $24,600, paid in 2008 at Sotheby’s London for a portrait of Muhammad Ali.

With "Kandinsky" at the Guggenheim Museum and "Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, it seems clear that abstraction, the 20th-century’s contribution to fine art, still has some life in the 21st century. A few signposts:

* Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting by New York curator Bob Nickas, a new book from Phaidon Press, surveys works by 80 contemporary artists and promises to be "the first comprehensive guide to contemporary abstract painting published in years." The 352-page tome features 250 color illustrations, and is priced at $75. Presentations for the book are planned for tonight, Nov. 10, 7 pm, at Paula Cooper Gallery at 534 West 21st Street, and tomorrow, Nov. 11, 7 pm, at Spoonbill and Sugartown at 218 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg.

* "Besides, With, Against, and Yet: Abstraction and the Ready-Made Gesture," Nov. 13, 2009-Jan. 16, 2010, organized by Debra Singer, opens at the Kitchen at 512 West 19th Street in Chelsea. The 22 artists in the show, who range from Polly Apfelbaum and Wade Guyton to Blake Rayne, Charline von Heyl and Kelley Walker, "appropriate aspects of non-narrative abstraction as ‘ready-made’ vocabularies to be reinvented."

* "Explorations in Black and White: The 1930s through the 1960s," Oct. 1-Dec. 23, 2009, at D. Wigmore Fine Art at 730 Fifth Avenue, presents 34 works using the stringently reduced palette, by artists ranging from Burgoyne Diller, Balcomb Greene and Alice Trumbull Mason to Frederick Hammersley, John McLaughlin and David Smith.

* “Geometric Abstract Works: The Latin American Vision from the 1950s, 60s and 70s,” Oct. 16-Nov. 24, 2009, organized by Mónica Espinel for Henrique Faria Fine Art and presented at Mireille Mosler Gallery at 35 East 67th Street. The 20 artists in the show include Sergio Camargo, Gego and Fanny Sanín.

* And one bit of bad news: "Continuing Color Abstraction," the invitational exhibition organized by Rella Stuart-Hunt and due to open at the Painting Center at 52 Greene Street in SoHo later this month, has been postponed. The Painting Center is not renewing its lease at its current quarters, and plans to reopen in 2010 in a larger and better facility. Stay tuned.

These days, art benefits are a dime a dozen (just like artists!), but Independent Curators International (iCI) is trying something new for its fall benefit, which looms just over the horizon on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009, at the Marquee nightclub in Chelsea. Instead of auctioning off artworks, iCI is offering what they are calling "live art experiences." Among the lots: a day playing tennis with Eric Fischl (and a drawing on a tennis ball); a tour of Jeff Koons’ studio hosted by the artist; a portrait of your child by Robert Longo;  a trip to collector Pierpaolo Barzan’s Tuscan villa; and a tour of Chelsea galleries with Jerry Saltz.

Some of the lots have estimated values that are dubbed "extravagant" or "unmatchable," while others have "buy it now" prices, such as $30,000 for the Longo portrait or $12,000 for the Italian trip. The benefit also boasts a raffle to win artworks by Anne Collier, Rashid Johnson, Sterling Ruby and Will Ryman (tickets are $100), the world premiere of 30 new video works, and live music by the dance pop group Jessica 6. Tickets to "Future Tense," as the benefit is called, begin at $175. For more info, see

Mark your calendars. The New York Foundation for the Arts is holding its pre-holiday swap meet on Dec, 10, 2009, at the NYFA offices at 20 Jay Street in Brooklyn.  Interested parties are urged to bring five to ten items that they want to swap -- books, art supplies, clothes, anything -- plus a $5 entry fee. Emcee is Jeff Hnilicka of FEAST (Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics), and Sweet Tooth of the Tiger is holding a bake sale as well. Any proceeds go to NYFA Current, the organization’s online mag. For more info, contact

New York artist Will Cotton, currently being praised for his custom-made baked goods on display every Sunday during the "Will Cotton Bakery" at Partners & Spade at 40 Great Jones Street in Lower Manhattan, has undertaken still another (nutty) project: he’s designing pajamas in collaboration with Phillips-Van Heusen. The unisex PJs, featuring a print design of pastries, pies and cakes, is produced in an edition of 1,000, priced at $195; a limited edition of 25 signed sets is $350 each. 

The bedtime gear is the doing of Creative Time, and can be bought retail sometime early in 2010. In the meantime, the pajamas have their debut at Creative Time’s upcoming fundraiser, which is billed as a "Slumber Party" and slated for the Ace Hotel on west 29th Street on Nov. 18, 2009. Tickets begin at $150, and a $300 ducat gets you a set of the jammies. For more info, contact

The Istanbul-based Vehbi Koç Foundation has given $10 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for two new galleries of Ottoman art. The galleries, dubbed the Koç Family Galleries, are to display works from the Ottoman Empire between the early 14th and early 20th centuries. Honorary Met trustee Rahmi M. Koç is currently honorary chairman of Koç Holding A.S., founded by his father and now Turkey's largest industrial conglomerate.

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