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Artnet News
Nov. 11, 2010

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As he makes his transition from perhaps the least-likable member of the Obama administration team to possible mayor of Chicago, former Illinois representative and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel appears to be looking to woo the art community. At least, this seems to be the lesson of a lengthy interview with Emanuel in Time Out Chicago (by far the most news-making of all the Time Outs, incidentally). Some highlights:

* Emanuel thinks, most notably, that "we should restore the Chicago Art Expo’s rightful place next to the Basel Expo in Miami" (that would be Art Chicago and Art Basel Miami Beach, respectively). The Merchandise Mart-owned Art Chicago, of course, has been on unsteady footing for awhile, while ABMB has been on the ascent since its debut in 2002. Good luck with that, Rahm!

* Meanwhile, Emanuel seems to put a lot of rhetorical focus on supporting "independent artists," lauding the Pilsen neighborhood as a promising hub for "small galleries," and Ravenwood as a place where industrial space is being given over to artists’ studios and theater offices. "I would like to see these neighborhood-based artistic communities grow across the city by prioritizing zoning and development funding for arts and cultural hubs."

* Emanuel shows off his arts connections, repeatedly mentioning that he is a former dancer who had a scholarship to Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet School. More importantly for visual arts fans, his wife Amy used to work for the Art Institute of Chicago, and the two have been members of both the AIC and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. He mentions that he attended the opening of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing last year, which, he opines, "has really enhanced the museum." (In other irrelevant tidbits, he says that Wilco and "the early Smashing Pumpkins" are his favorite local acts, and that "Just about every great comedian has come through Second City.")

* Emanuel credits the Chicago art scene with poaching Boeing’s administrative center from Seattle. Apparently, the company’s "opera-loving CEO" couldn’t stay away from the Windy City’s cultural delights. (Others think that the move had more to do with wanting to put some miles between Boeing’s management and its militant machinists.)

* As for a pressing issue, the proposed cost-saving merger of the Department of Cultural Affairs with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, Emanuel will only say, cryptically, that it "deserves further study" to see if it "reduces costs by streamlining operations." And asked if he favors "privatizing the city’s festivals," he responds, with a politician’s classical vagueness, "City festivals are about celebrating Chicago’s arts, cultural and culinary scenes, and they should remain accessible to everyone."

Sophie Calle has set up in an unused 97,000-square-foot basement at the Palais de Tokyo, a space that connects to the adjacent Musée d’Art Moderne, for a tribute to her recently deceased mother. "Rachel Monique," Oct. 20-Nov. 28, 2010, highlights photos, notes, post-its and movies related to the artist’s mom and her life.

"She loved attention and never understood why I didn’t produce more work about her," Calle says in a statement, adding that the derelict Palais de Tokyo space, created in 1937 for the World Expo but largely vacant since, was perfect for the project. "I was looking for a place of mystery," she explains, "and this seemed ideal because of its resemblance to a mausoleum." The basement is set to be converted into a proper contemporary art space by 2012, but in the meantime is hosting "unusual installations."

For "security reasons," no more than 30 visitors are allowed in the basement at a time for the show. You can reserve a slot online; recommended duration of a visit to "Rachel Monique" is 30 to 45 minutes.

The masked street-art musketeer Banksy may be about to have his cover blown. The Bristol-based Encounters International Film Festival, Nov. 16-21, 2010, promises to screen some CCTV footage that shows the face of the artist, captured while he was tagging the wall of the headquarters of the city’s Aardman animation studio (creators of Wallace & Gromit). Says the festival’s animation program manager, Keiran Argo, "What Banksy didn’t bargain for when recently stenciling the back wall of Aardman’s new building was the discrete CCTV system they had installed allowing us, for the first time, to put a face to the name. All will be revealed in the programme. . ."

Of course, back in 2008, the Mail on Sunday announced with much fanfare that following some extensive detective work, it could confirm that Banksy was, in fact, one Robin Gunningham [see Artnet News, July 29, 2008]. This was followed shortly by the news on Gawker that this "revelation" might have been long hiding in plain sight, with photos of Gunningham/Banksy easily available via something called the Rex photo service. This story was then, in turn, retracted by Gawker, as a reader suggested that the Rex photo might be of a break-dancer called Banxy, not the artist Banksy (however, weirdly, Rex still identified whoever it was as "Robin Gunningham," the very name the Mail would later dig up). So, whatever the Encounters footage shows, the intrigue seems likely to go on.

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