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Artnet News
May 20, 2010 

By most accounts, last weekend’s incarnation of "No Soul For Sale" at the Tate Modern, May 14-16, 2010, was a good time. The so-called "festival of independents" provided exhibition and performance space in the Tate’s Turbine Hall to some 70 nonprofit art organizations from all over the world, all part of a celebration of the museum’s tenth birthday that grew into a wild party featuring blimps, "bounce-houses" and improvised artist flea-markets. The spectacle did provoke some small controversy as well, however, with a group called Making A Living issuing an "open letter" to the Tate, condemning the whole thing for reinforcing "deeply reductive stereotypes about the artist and art production."

The anonymous authors of the letter -- who describe themselves as "a grouping of national and international artists," many of whom "have worked with Tate and other major art galleries" -- took "No Soul For Sale" to task because the artists involved were not compensated monetarily for their participation. Making A Living described this as part of a wider pattern: "Tate has not paid artists for some exhibitions, workshops and events, including last year’s Tate Triennial. . . . this policy has existed over a considerable period of time, long before the current economic crisis became an issue for arts institutions."

The group concludes their open letter by issuing a call for an end to unpaid artistic labor in general: "If artists continue to work for free, or are expected to pay for their efforts when working with our major art institutions, then we deny opportunities to the great majority of artists who simply cannot afford to take such financial risks."

An email to Making A Living seeking further details about the protest was not answered. One small irony of the kerfuffle is that the group’s demands for museums to pay artists strongly recall those of the New York group Working Artists in the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) -- which actually took part in the previous New York incarnation of "No Soul For Sale," at the X-Initiative.

As for the impact of the letter at "No Soul For Sale" itself, curator Cecilia Alemani said that she hadn’t been aware of any on-the-ground protest. She added, however, "I think that letter was simply a welcome version of institutional critique."

The picture of the 2011 Venice Biennale is beginning to come together. Last week, it was announced that the curator for the affair would be Bice Curiger, currently director of the Zurich Kunsthaus, editor-in-chief of Parkett magazine and publishing director of Tate Etc, a magazine produced by London’s Tate Gallery. According to the Art Newspaper, meanwhile, current plans have Curiger’s show limited to the Arsenale, while the Italian Pavilion in the Giardini is to be taken over by a large art show to celebrate 150 years since Italy’s unification, curated by art historian Vittorio Sgarbi -- an idea that is bound to rouse controversy.

Meanwhile, countries have begun to announce the artists for their national pavilions, and the website Universes in Universes has been dutifully cataloguing them. Announced so far: Hany Armanious (Australia), Christian Boltanski (France), Christoph Schlingensief (Germany), Mike Nelson (Great Britain), Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson (Iceland), Sigalit Landau (Israel) and Michael Parekowhai (New Zealand). The Austrian pavilion is being organized by Eva Schlegel.

And what about the United States, you say? Well, according to Universes in Universes, the artist representing the U.S. is none other than Spider-Man/Pineapple Express co-star and multitalented actor James Franco, known for his participation in such artworks as Carter’s Erased James Franco, a recent collaboration with Marina Abramovic and a plot to realize a conceptual art project at Deitch Projects relating to his guest star role on General Hospital, an initiative which was aborted when dealer Jeffrey Deitch decided to leave New York for Los Angeles.

Sadly, it looks like the Universes in Universes listing is simply the result of an April Fool’s Joke gone bad, though. Edward Winkleman took note of the hoax on his blog as it was happening, and UiU seems to have simply picked up the misinformation. Still, is it really so improbable? The artist Nic Rad released "The Celebritist Manifesto" recently, described as a "stirring defense of James Franco as the greatest artist of his generation, if not of all time."

The artist co-op building at 169 Bowery in Manhattan sometimes known as Collective Hardware and sometimes as "169 Bowery" -- a throwback to the 1970s, with various floors of a ramshackle loft building devoted to gallery and studio space, plus a hair salon and a clothing store -- is no more. According to the landlords, the informal group of artists whose sweat equity turned the structure from a shell into a functioning art space had fallen behind in their rent, and now they have seized the property, changed the locks and evicted the tenants. Artists with studios in the building are now working to get their property out.

One higher-profile casualty is Anonymous Gallery, which for the last year or so has organized shows in Collective Hardware’s spacious if rough-hewn ground-floor space. On view before the lockout was an exhibition organized by Peter Makebish of large works by Donald Baechler, Ross Bleckner, Brendan Cass, John Newsom, Kenny Scharf, Ouattara Watts and others. Anonymous director Joseph Ian Henrikson says he is seeking to reclaim the works and return them to the artists, and get the rest of his gallery materials out of the space as well. Henrikson had a lot of plans for the building (including studio space for performance artist Kembra Pfahler), and is now scrambling to find a new location for a planned show in collaboration with the Bicycle Film Festival, scheduled to open on June 17, 2010. "We’ll push through," he wrote in an email. "We have to."

The Brooklyn Museum has slotted a mid-career survey of celebrated hallucinogenic artist Fred Tomaselli -- whose early signature works involve rococo patterns made with marijuana leaves and prescription pills -- into its schedule for next fall and winter. "Fred Tomaselli," Oct. 8, 2010-Jan. 2, 2011, presents more than 40 artworks, ranging from his early experiments with photograms and collage to recent paintings and prints that allude to current events. The show is organized by the Aspen Art Museum and the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, where it has already appeared.

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