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Artnet News
May 18, 2010 

At a recent press breakfast, Museum for African Art (MAA) director Elsie McCabe Thompson and architect Robert A.M. Stern jointly announced plans to open the long-awaited new Museum for African Art facility, located across from the northeast corner of Central Park at Fifth Avenue between 109th and 100th Streets, in April 2011. The new museum has an enviable site at the north end of New York’s famous "Museum Mile," or what Stern called "Museum Mile and a Quarter," across the circle from Robert Graham’s Duke Ellington Memorial.

The 75,000-square-foot museum facility, which is part of a much larger condo development, is designed by Stern in precast concrete with a distinctive facade marked by a pattern of what he called "dancing mullions." The museum proper has an L-shaped floor plan with 15,000 square feet of exhibition space and another 5,000 square feet in the atrium, plus a 245-seat auditorium and a third-floor "event space" that is open to an unusual rooftop garden with views of the park (which Stern compared to the Metropolitan Museum of Art roof garden). The museum design also features a trapezoidal plaza area facing the park from behind an 85-foot-tall screen-like structure (repeating the "dancing mullion" pattern), which was made necessary by New York City zoning rules that require buildings on Central Park to have a certain height.

The new museum debuts with several exhibitions, many of them already on tour. "Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria," an eye-opening exploration of the brass, terra-cotta and stone sculpture made by the Yoruba people between the ninth and the 15th centuries -- organized by the MAA with the government of Nigeria -- is currently on view at the British Museum and appears this fall at the Houston MFA before coming to the MAA.

A second exhibition organized by the museum is "Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art," which explores the history of coiled basketry via 200 objects, in a fascinating study of the way that the slave trade resulted in the transcontinental movement of both craft and agricultural technology (that is, rice cultivation and harvesting methods). The show debuts at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. in June 2010 before appearing at the MAA.

Also on the schedule at the MAA is a survey of works by El Anatsui, including his little-seen paintings as well as the well-known metal tapestry works, and exhibitions of works by the senior Sudanese artist Ibrahim El Salahi and the South African sculptor Jane Alexander, in her first major U.S. solo show.

The museum has only a small collection, Thompson said, adding that she didn’t anticipate having funds for major acquisitions. The museum has raised about two-thirds of its $95 million capital campaign; phase two of the fundraising effort starts in 18 months. "We expect to be fundraising forever," Thompson said, and she didn’t seem to be joking. The museum had recently come under fire for receiving a substantial part of its funding from city and state sources, but Thompson indicated that raising money was getting easier with the approach of the opening of the new facility.

After more than a decade of work, deconstructivist architect Zaha Hadid is finally able to unveil her museum in Rome. MAXXI -- National Museum of XXI Century Arts opens to the public on May 30, 2010, with four inaugural exhibitions, including a survey of over 130 works by Gino de Dominicis organized by Achille Bonito Oliva and shows devoted to Kutlug Ataman and the architect Luigi Moretti. The fourth show, "Spazio," is a thematic presentation of the museum collection that "portrays the spirit of the museum" via 80 artworks (by Alighiero Boetti, Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, others) and site-specific installations by 10 architecture studios.

The 21,000-square-meter, glass-and-concrete structure comes with a €150,000,000 pricetag, and 10,000 square meters devoted to exhibition galleries. Attendance is expected to surpass 200,000 visitors in the first year. The museum collection numbers 350 works of contemporary art, plus 75,000 architectural drawings.

The third edition of Rome’s own art fair, known as ROMA. The Road to Contemporary Art, May 27-30, 2010, opens in the 8,000-square-meter space at Macro Testaccio, just by the new MAXXI museum, with 67 galleries represented. In addition to the fair’s main section -- participants include Continua, Massimo De Carlo, Haunch of Venison, Magazzino, Franco Noero, Lorcan O’Neill, Pio Monti, Robilant + Voena, Lia Rumma, Sperone Westwater and Toselli -- ROMA also includes "Start Up," a section of 17 new galleries, and "Fuori Misura," large-scale works presented "in the open sky."

Accompanying the fair is "Accademie in Festa," a coordinated series of open houses on May 25 at ten cultural institutes in Rome, including the American Academy, the Goethe Institut and the Swiss Institute. The fair also boasts its own radio station developed by Ilari Valbonesi, four evenings of events organized by four magazines (Bang Art, Inside Art, DROME and Fefè visual magazine) and, in the VIP lounge, some food presentations by the feminine collective Arabeschi di latte (Milk Arabesques). The fair is under the direction of Roberto Casiraghi.  

Artist Paul Ramirez Jonas and Creative Time have come up with the wackiest summer art project yet for New York City. Called Key to the City, the event begins with that well-known symbol of civic honor, but arranges to bestow it on anyone and everyone who wants to take part.

From June 3-27, 2010, Jonas and Creative Time are setting up a kiosk on a temporary "village green" in Times Square at Broadway and 43rd Street (just north of the military recruiting station), where participants can queue up, get a key, and ritualistically present it to another person, recording the reasons for the honor in a communal ledger. It’s best if people go in pairs, in order to have one presenter and one recipient, though Creative Time also makes it possible for individuals to have a key presented to themselves.

What next? The key comes with a booklet listing more than 25 sites across the five boroughs, each with a lock opened by the key, providing, in essence, an eccentric tour of the city. The keys provide access to everything from the front gate of a garden of a Buddhist vihara in Staten Island to a free second helping of ice cream at Eddie’s Sweet Shop, a 100-year-old confectionary in Queens.

The keys are ordinary keys, though they’re the slightly larger, heavy security type made by Medeco, one of the event’s sponsors. Creative Time is guessing that 30,000 people may take part in the artwork; though key distribution ends on June 27, the locks are openable through Labor Day.

It’s the perfect chance to avoid the crowds at the Whitney Museum for its "2010 Whitney Biennial," Feb. 25-May 30, 2010 -- set your alarm for 5 am, and ramble through in the middle of the night, courtesy California conceptualist Michael Asher. For his contribution to the show, Asher asked the museum to stay open around the clock, and it has complied, opening to the public at 12 am on the morning of Wednesday, May 26 (otherwise known as midnight on Tuesday, a day when the museum is ordinarily closed), through 11:59 pm on Friday, May 28.

What’s more, admission is "pay what you wish" during the nonstandard hours, e.g. 12 midnight to 9 am on May 26; 11 pm on May 26 through 9 am on May 27; 11 pm on May 27 through 9 am on May 28; and 6 pm to 11:59 pm on May 28. The museum is also offering hourly tours (on the half hour) of the biennial, and artist Aki Sasamoto is performing on May 16 at 6 am, 9 am, 4 pm and 7 pm.  

Artist Louise Bourgeois has made a rather lovely print -- an image of two red flowers blooming from a single stalk -- to benefit Freedom to Marry, a nationwide campaign to extend the rights of marriage to same-sex couples. Titled I do, 2010, the edition is made with dyes on cloth with embroidery, and is published in an edition of 300 prints, priced at $1,000 each. The print is already available, and goes on view at Cheim & Read in Manhattan on June 22, 2010.

Henry Moore
is first western modernist to have an exhibition in the Kremlin Museum, according to Russian news reports. The exhibition opens in February 2012. Kremlin Museum deputy director Zelfira Tregulova says that the exhibition includes drawings and tapestries as well as sculptures, lent by the Henry Moore Foundation and the British Council.

Talk about a star-studded corporate art program. The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, which matches young talents with experts in their field, has been launched for 2010. The mentors are Trisha Brown (dance), Zhang Yimou (film), Hans Magnus Enzensberger (literature), Brian Eno (music), Peter Sellars (theater) and Anish Kapoor (visual arts). The six young winners, who get 12 months of one-to-one collaboration with their mentors, are to be announced in June 2010.

San Francisco is back on the art fair circuit. The San Francisco Fine Art Fair, May 21-23, 2010, presents more than 70 galleries at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center. Participants include Baer Ridgway (San Francisco), Black & White (Williamsburg), Braunstein/Quay (San Francisco), DC Moore (New York), Douglas Dawson (Chicago), Gerald Peters (Santa Fe / New York) and Louis K. Meisel (New York). The fair is organized by Rick Friedman, director, entrepreneur and founder of ArtHamptons. The opening party on May 20, which benefits the San Francisco Art Institute, is $75; general admission to the event is $15.

The valiant Brooklyn alternative space Momenta Art holds its annual benefit auction and raffle at White Columns in Greenwich Village on May 26, 2010. The party starts at noon, and promises a performance by Guy Richards Smit, drinks, an auction and a raffle. Tickets are $225.

Sometime Artnet Magazine contributor Elliott Arkin, mastermind of the nascent Mister Artsee traveling art platform, has organized a benefit for his project at The Compleat Sculptor -- the world’s largest sculpture supply center -- at 90 Van Dam Street in Lower Manhattan. Special honoree at the event is Tico Torres, the legendary drummer for Bon Jovi, who also is an artist himself. The benefit takes place on Monday, May 24, 2010, 5:30-10:30 pm, and promises cocktails and catering (courtesy chef Neil Ganik), an art auction (with works by artists ranging from Renée Cox to Robert Storr), sculpting demonstrations and prizes. Also on the schedule: a performance by Buster Balloon, a "balloon twister" who has worked for Jeff Koons. Tickets are $250, contact

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