GIONI’S "10,000 LIVES" IN GWANGJU
At a surprisingly full press conference at the New Museum on Apr. 20, 2010, globetrotting curator Massimiliano Gioni unveiled his ambitious vision for the upcoming Gwangju Biennial, Sept. 3-Nov. 7, 2010, which surveys art made from 1901 to the present by more than 100 artists. The show is, according to Gioni, a meditation on the place of art in relation to the overwhelming diversity of contemporary visual culture -- he noted in introducing his curatorial concept that a record $14 million had been paid for a single use of a photo of Angelina Jolie’s babies, dwarfing, he said, the money paid for most contemporary art photographs.
Whatever the premise, the sensibility displayed by the show is quickly becoming a Gioni trademark, familiar from his much-liked "After Nature" exhibition at the New Museum in 2008. Like that show, the selections for "10,000 Lives" are shot through with historical melancholy, and feature a provocative juxtaposition of a particularly sober strain of contemporary art, from an extremely broad geographic reach, set alongside eccentric selections from canonical figures, a strong current of "outsider art," and a few other unclassifiable objects appropriated from unexpected places, adding some poetic accents to the whole endeavor. As a curatorial style, you have to admit that it is attractive.
Thus, the Gwangju Biennial includes Paul Fusco’s famous photos of crowds lining the road for Bobby Kennedy’s funeral procession, and Lee Friedlander’s semi-surrealist photos of television sets, but also Fischli & Weiss’ Visible World, a set of 15 light tables holding 3,000 transparencies of stock-image locales taken by the artists over a decade and a half, and Ydessa Hendeles’ Teddy Bear Project (2001-2003), the Canadian art patron’s massive aggregation of images of people with teddy bears (including a great black-and-white photo of philosopher Walter Benjamin playing chess with a teddy looking on).
But also expect such curiosities as outsider Morton Bartlett’s creepy dolls, healer Guo Fengyi’s ink-on-rice-paper drawings that supposedly cure the SARS virus, and Korean ad photographer Hanyong Kim’s photos from the ‘70s, recontextualized as art with the product slogans removed. Also on view is a version of the famous, Mao-era socialist realist tableau Rent Collection Courtyard, depicting the evils of the Chinese landowner class, and a suite of photos called the Tuol Sleng Prison Photographs, consisting of soulful black-and-white portraits of Cambodian prisoners in a concentration camp, snapped before they were executed.
It’s an incredible collection of art, and must require some talent just to coordinate. Nevertheless, Gioni said that the greatest challenge of the show was also the greatest opportunity: the audience. "In Korea," he said, "every schoolchild is required to see my show."
GAUGUIN AT NATIONAL GALLERY
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., presents "Gauguin: Maker of Myth," Feb. 27-June 5, 2011, some 200 works by the artist in what is called the first major reappraisal of the artist’s work in more than 20 years. The show is co-organized with Tate Modern, London, where it debuts, Sept. 30, 2010-Jan. 16, 2011. Guest curator of the show, for which the NGA is also producing a 30-minute-long film, is art historian and writer Belinda Thomson.
CHRISTIE’S FIRST "GREEN AUCTION"
With the undeniably catchy tagline "Going, Going. . . Green," Christie’s auction house is launching its very first "green auction" ("a bid to save the earth," you see) at its Rockefeller Center salesroom on Apr. 22, 2010. Proceeds of the auction, which features "travel and celebrity experiences" as well as artworks, benefit four nonprofits: Central Park Conservancy, Conservation International, Natural Resources Defense Council and Oceana.
Artists contributing works include Olafur Eliasson, Subodh Gupta, Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, David LaChapelle, Enoc Perez and Keith Tyson, while celebrity outings include a visit for two to the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar Party (est. $50,000) and a day with Hugh Jackman on the set of Real Steel, a new "robot boxing movie." The sale celebrates the 40th anniversary of earth day. To browse the online catalogue, click here.
2010 DAKAR BIENNIAL OF AFRICAN ART
The 9th Dak’Art 2010 Biennial of Contemporary African Art, May 7-June 7, 2010, takes up the theme "Dak’Art 1990-2010: Retrospective and Prospects." The show features an international exhibition of new works by prize-winners from past biennials at the Musée Théodore Monod d’Art Africain and a survey of 25 artists representing five areas of the African continent at the Galerie Nationale d’Art.
BARBARA POLLACK’S "WILD, WILD EAST"
Just as China is primed to take over the world, veteran China art-hand Barbara Pollack is releasing her new book on the China art phenomenon, The Wild, Wild East: An American Art Critic’s Adventures in China (Timezone). The 236-page book, priced at $25, features first-hand reports on the China art scene, which, as Pollack notes, now has over 1,000 new contemporary art museums. The book launch is slated for June 1, 6-8 pm, at Pace Gallery on West 22nd Street in New York.
CHUCK CLOSE BIO ON TAP
Artist and freelance art writer Christopher Finch, author of The Art of Walt Disney (2004) and Norman Rockwell’s America (1994), has now penned the definitive biography of painter Chuck Close. The 352-page Chuck Close: Life, is due from Prestel Publishing on May 6, 2010, and is a companion volume to Finch’s Chuck Close: Work, which was published in 2007. Both Close and Finch embark on a brief publicity tour that takes them to the Art Institute of Chicago on May 6, the Metropolitan Museum on May 14 and the Corcoran Gallery on June 30.
PURVIS YOUNG, 1943-2010
Purvis Young, 67, self-taught painter from Overtown in Miami who is celebrated for vigorous but simple imagery that is by turns political and poetic, died in a Miami nursing home on Apr. 20 after a long battle with diabetes. One of his favorite motifs was herds of wild horses. During a rough-and-tumble youth in the Miami inner-city, Young grew to identify with the Black Panthers and the African-American quest for social justice before spending two stretches in prison, first in the early 1960s for armed robbery and again after the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami, when his heated political rhetoric prompted the repeal of his parole.
In prison he began drawing in earnest, and between ’68 and ’74 started making paintings on scavenged sheets of plywood found in the Miami streets. His quick and brushy images featured outstretched black hands, jail bars, watching eyes, trucks and cars, policemen and angels. Young began installing these works in his own three-block-long "Freedom Wall" on abandoned buildings alongside I-95 in the Miami ghetto, a site that was called "Goodbread Alley" after the bakeries that had formerly been housed there.
Young’s installation came to an end in the 1975 urban renewal, but not before a local art patron had taken note, and Young was given a series of exhibitions at Miami museums. Over the years he showed at galleries and museums in the U.S. and Europe; his many museum shows included "Souls Grown Deep" at the Emory University Museum in 1996 and in "Purvis Young: The Life I See" at the Bass Museum in 2002. The documentary film, Purvis of Overtown, was released in 2006. Purvis Young is represented in New York by Skot Foreman Fine Art, which is presenting “In Memorium,” a special exhibition of Young’s art, through May 30, 2010.