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Mar. 23, 2011

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Can anyone stand up to the Republicans who want to ban singing, dancing and all the other joyful activities funded by the National Endowment for the Arts? Maybe Lex Luthor (Superman Returns) or Dr. Evil (Goldmember)? A hard-bitten character from Hurlyburly, American Beauty or The Big Kahuna? What about Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)?

Academy Award-winning movie star Kevin Spacey -- who played all these roles -- gets his chance to speak truth to power on Apr. 4, 2011, when he delivers the 24th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Admission to the lecture is free, though reservations are recommended. Also featured is a performance by the Touch of Class Show Choir from Chantilly High School in Chantilly, Va.

The evening lecture is the highlight of the two-day-long "Arts Advocacy Day" conference on Apr. 4-5, 2011, a citizen lobbying event organized by Americans for the Arts and now in its 24th year. The schedule involves a day of training and then visits to the offices of Senators and Congressmen. For more info, and to register to take part, visit

Graffiti pioneer John "Crash" Matos has gotten into the suitcase business. Tumi, the New Jersey-based luggage company, has produced four new carry-on bags, each decorated with images from Crash’s signature works, priced at between $445 and $545 each. The limited edition bags are being produced in runs of 1,000.

The original artwork involved, however, is being sold for charity -- for the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), in fact. The sale takes place right here in the Artnet Auctions, Mar. 22-Apr. 5, 2011. The large (84 x 48 in.) canvas is estimated at $15,000-$25,000, and 100 percent of the proceeds are earmarked for ACRIA. 

Are we hungry yet? Nothing helps art lovers on their winding way like the occasional stop for a little refreshment, and the Whitney Museum of American Art is now providing just such a watering hole. Bearing the (sadly undistinguished) name Untitled, the Whit’s new café -- masterminded by none other than Shake Shack culinary genius Danny Meyer -- opens as a "work in progress" (sans bar stools and banquettes) today, Mar. 23, 2011. Executive chef Chris Bradley promises "a contemporary take on the classic Manhattan coffee shop," offering breakfast and lunch only to start, a menu including pancakes, burgers and Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie and Blue Marble ice cream. Museum admission is not necessary to visit the café, which accepts no reservations; it opens at 7:30 am.

A new website is up for dOCUMENTA (13), June 9-Sept. 16, 2012, the 100-day-long, every-five-year global art exhibition mounted in Kassel, Germany. Art-world observers will be interested to note, in addition to a plan to "go to Kabul, where Alighiero Boetti managed a hotel in the 1970s" (this listed under "facts and rumors"), that dOCUMENTA (13) artistic director Carolyn Christov-Barkargiev promises to make the event "extend into the past and into the future" as well.

Next up in this regard, the curator assists artist Horst Hoheisel with his monthly cleaning of the Ashcrott Fountain in Kassel, at 10 am on Mar. 29, 2011. The striking "counter-monument," titled Negative Form, was completed in 1987 on the site of a fountain given to the city in 1908 by a Jewish businessman and destroyed by the Nazis in 1939. Hoheisel personally cleans the circular plaza in a monthly ritual, now in its 25th year, and Christov-Bakargiev joins him in a "shared event, recalling feminist performances," in which "the Latin term curare -- meaning ’to attend to’ -- is taken literally."

The Museum of Arts & Design isn’t dubbed MAD for nothing. The museum has launched a new "THE FUN" fellowship, to provide "financial and logistical support" to artists engaged in the "undervalued social practice" of doing art in nightclubs and such. The inaugural recipients are Brooklyn-based group Judy (Gabriel Babriel, Brian Belukha, Benjamin Haber and Icky Mikki); Earl Dax; Cameron Cooper and Zach Cole of the Brooklyn-based party Gag!; and Lauren Devine and Patrik Sandberg. MAD has declined to identify either the sponsors of the fellowships or the amounts.

The fellowship accompanies MAD’s summer show, "Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities," June 7-Sept. 18, 2011, which features dioramas, miniatures, models, snow globes and other manifestations of small-scale artificial environments and alternative realities. Artists in the show include James Casebere, Mat Collishaw, Joe Fig, Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz, David Opdyke, Liliana Porter and Charles Simmonds, among others.

New York City has a new gallery devoted to Italian art, effective Mar. 27, 2011. Industria Gallery, which resides within photographer Fabrizio Ferri’s space Industria Superstudio at 775 Washington Street, debuts with "UN’ITA," a show of 45 Italian artists that "celebrates 150 years of the unification of Italy." Curated by Flash Art magazine and sponsored by Vhernier, the Italian jewelry company, the show includes works by Carla Accardi, Enrico Castellani, Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and many others.  

The news that Richard Prince and Gagosian Gallery had lost a big copyright case last week (news that was broken on the APhotoEditor blog) ping-ponged around the art world, but failed to evoke any response from the principals. That’s standard procedure in ongoing court cases, needless to say, as was noted by Daniel J. Brooks of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, attorneys for Patrick Cariou, the French photographer who brought the copyright lawsuit.

"We are pleased with the decision," Brooks said. "It’s thorough and well-written, and lays to rest the notion that ’appropriation artists’ are entitled to a different fair-use standard than anyone else." He declined further comment when asked about possible damages or any settlement talks, and also declined to make his client available for an interview. "It’s not a good idea while the case is proceeding," he explained. Brooks might want to convey this to Cariou, who yesterday gave an interview to Artinfo in which he mused that what Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg did was alright, undercutting his own complaint.

For his part, Prince has other fish to fry. His special exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, titled "American Prayer," opens this week, as does "de Kooning," a show of his works at Gagosian Gallery Paris. Presumably these collages, which famously combine imagery from Willem de Kooning’s paintings of women with gay male pornography, can be called proper parodies, and thus fall under the "fair use" exception to copyright law.

The decision in Cariou v. Prince does seem to have far-reaching implications for many contemporary artists, who like their historic predecessors are known to copy a thing or two from an assortment of sources. "It puts a lot of artists in trouble," said painter and blogger Joy Garnett, who keeps a close eye on copyright issues in her blog, Newsgrist. "The idea that referencing other artworks might be subject to legal regulation goes counter to any idea of creativity," she added, echoing the sentiments of critic Charlie Finch.

"The case is radioactive,” exclaimed John Koegel, the Manhattan art lawyer who has represented Jeff Koons on similar issues. Koegel noted that Prince and Gagosian could immediately appeal the liability ruling to the second circuit -- the demand that all the infringing works be turned over -- or try to settle, or go to trial to determine damages. In the latter instance, Koegel said, the trial would determine what portion of the value of Prince’s works were due to Cariou’s photographs. “You’d have the spectacle of collectors testifying as to why they bought those paintings, whether it was because of Cariou’s Rastafarian imagery, or because of some other reason.”

Another attorney, who asked to remain anonymous, was even more pessimistic. “It’s a pretty radical decision,” he said. "The only issue is how much Prince and Gagosian are going to have to pay," he hazarded. "The way I see it, they get slammed five ways: 1) their profit, 2) destruction of the works, 3) Cariou’s losses for his unsold works, 4) attorney fees for the plaintiff, and 5) they have to deal with the collectors who bought the works, who now can’t display them and would probably want their money back."

Students of Prince’s "Canal Zone" series may remember, as well, that not all the imagery comes from Cariou’s scenes of Jamaica. The works also feature pinups -- taken from photographs by Richard Kern. "I’m not suing," Kern said, laughing. "Richard’s a friend, and wrote the intro to Action, the Taschen book that contains the photos he used."

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