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Artnet News
Aug. 18, 2009 

Russia’s culture minister Alexander Avdeyev has unveiled plans for an ambitious new, 3-billion-ruble ($94 million) state-sponsored contemporary art museum in Moscow, after offhandedly mentioning the idea in a speech last April. According to the Moscow Times, the proposed museum would be an expansion of the relatively modest National Center for Contemporary Art (NCCA), which oversaw "Unconditional Love," Russia’s official entry into this year’s Venice Biennale. The new building would be 17 stories tall, grafted on top of the NCCA’s current headquarters, with 25,000-square-meters of floor space, a movie theater and a café. Moscow is one great metropolis without a major contemporary art museum, and the scheme is said to be inspired by Paris’ Pompidou Center.

Partly designed by current NCCA director Mikhail Mindlin, the new museum would open in 2015 at the soonest. Where the money might come from remains a mystery, but perhaps the suggested focus of the museum contains a clue: "international post-Soviet art" like that of Jake & Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst and Paul McCarthy -- notably the kind of artists associated with the Russian oligarchs who entered the art market so aggressively in recent years.

A few weeks ago, a viral image depicting Barack Obama as the Joker (from the 2008 movie, The Dark Knight), captioned with the word "SOCIALISM," set off a media firestorm, with the right wing promoting the admittedly disturbing image as sign of grassroots opposition to Obama, and the left decrying it as an example of racism (it could easily be mistaken for an image of the Commander-in-Chief in whiteface). Well, the story just took an unexpected turn, as the Los Angeles Times managed to track down the author of the original image: 20-year-old Palestinian-American history student Firas Alkhateeb.

Alkhateeb, to be fair, is not really responsible for the poster campaign that captured the imagination of Fox News. He made the image in Photoshop, and posted it to Flickr, from which it was stolen by an "anonymous rogue," according to the Times, who edited it and added the word "SOCIALISM." In fact, Alkhateeb’s politics are far from conservative, though they are a mixed bag -- he says he did not vote, but would have supported lefty Democrat Dennis Kucinich. Alkhateeb’s views "on foreign relations align with the Democrats," the Times reports, "while he prefers Republican ideals on domestic issues," whatever that means. As for his take on Obama, he says his Joker image was meant to question the Messianic tone of his campaign: "From my perspective, there wasn't much substance to him."

The Flickr stream of the unexpected street-art star reveals a variety of other Photoshop experiments. These range from the fairly goofy, like his advertisement for "Quran Hero," a parody of Guitar Hero, to the more political, such as another poster-style graphic featuring the image of Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel with the words "EPIC FAIL" over it. In a caption, Alkhateeb explains that he deplores Emanuel for his "anti-Muslim racism" and "political partisanship."

The most amusing part of the Times article however, is Alkhateeb’s reaction to a critique of his image by Shepard Fairey, whose viral poster campaign for Obama seems to have provided the template for the still-anonymous forces behind the Joker campaign. Alkhateeb agrees with Fairey that "SOCIALISM" is the wrong caption for his image, but whereas Fairey defended the president by saying that he was not a socialist, Alkhateeb had a different take. "To accuse him of being a socialist is really. . . immature," he said. "First of all, who said being a socialist is evil?"

One of the best jokes in the 1995 Whitney Biennial was Nicole Eisenman’s cartoon drawing of the "Whitney Houston Museum of American Art." Now, that pun is being revisited -- as is Whitney Houston’s career with a newly released comeback album -- with the weekend-long "Whitney’s Biennial," Aug. 28-30, 2009, sponsored by c.r.e.a.m. projects at an empty commercial space at 70 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn. The show explores "the dubious notion of the comeback" at a time of economic recession, when "the artist is in need of a new strategy."

The show is organized by MaryKate Maher, Martha Mysko, Elise Rasmussen and Davida Nemeroff, and includes Anna Rosen, Austin Shull, Carrie Schneider, Chelsea Knight, Christine Sun Kim & Jacob Shamberg, Nemeroff, Douglas Boatwright, Elise Rasmussen, Fia Backström, Jesse Harris, Joey Whiteley, Joshua von Brown, Julia Kennedy, Kara Walker, Kelli Thompson, Kotama Bouabane, Leidy Churchman, Martha Mysko, MaryKate Maher & Oliver Jones, Mauricio Salgado, Michael Berryhill, Michael Farmer, Mira Dancy, Paul Heyer, Per Billgren, Peter Harkawik, Roe Ethridge, Roshani Thakore, Samara Golden, Shawn Kuruneru, Tony Romano, Tuomas Korpijaakko, Valerie Piraino, Victoria Cheong and William Kidman. The opening party is on Aug. 28, 7-11 pm.

The luxury Scottish knitware company Pringle of Scotland -- which devised the argyle pattern in the 1930s -- has enlisted Glasgow-based cartoon artist David Shrigley for a new marketing campaign for its "twinsets," ensembles which pair cardigans and sweaters. "I didn’t know what a twinset was before I collaborated with Pringle," the artist is quoted as saying. "I thought it was underwear or something. Now I do know what it is I think everybody should wear one. Always. All the time."

Shrigley has produced several drawings for Pringle to be used in billboards and store windows and displays, all to be launched globally on Sept. 10, 2009. What’s more, part of the campaign involves a special t-shirt line reproducing one of the drawings, with the sales proceeds going to charity. Pringle has "stockists" in Berlin, Hong Kong, Korea, London, Milan, Paris and Tokyo -- but not the U.S. For a slideshow of images, click here. Also on tap from Pringle: a spring 2010 ad campaign, shot by Ryan McGinley and featuring Tilda Swinton.

Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue has announced the second round of winners of the Artadia Awards2009 Boston. Winners of $15,000 grants are Amie Siegel and Joe Zane; recipients of the $3,000 awards are Claire Beckett, Ambreen Butt, Caleb Cole, Raul Gonzalez and Eric Gottesman. The jurors were Walker Arts Center curator Peter Eleey, LACMA assistant curator Rita Gonzalez and Boston ICA associate curator Randi Hopkins. Nearly 600 Boston-area artists responded to an open call for applications for the award. The next round of Artadia grants is in San Francisco; for details, see

Christina Von Hassell, 85, much-liked art reporter and critic who covered auction sales at Christie's and Sotheby's since settling in New York City in the early 1970s, died on Aug. 15, 2009. A descendant of Prussian military nobility, Christina Von Studnitz studied art history in Prague during World War II; after the war, she worked in an ammunition factory in East Germany and taught English to schoolchildren. She escaped to London during the Soviet blockage of Berlin, and then settled in Bonn, where she met and married Wolf Ulrich von Hassell, a West German diplomat who eventually became one of the first ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Germany to the U.N. As an ambassador's wife in New York, she hosted many dinners and receptions at her family's Park Avenue apartment. In her role as an auction reporter, she wrote primarily for Weltkunst Magazine and Die Welt.

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