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Nov. 18, 2010

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The roast of artist Richard Prince at the Friars Club on East 55th Street in Manhattan on Nov. 17, 2010, turned out well, by all accounts. Roastmaster Glenn O’Brien gave a masterful speech, toasting the guest of honor with witty one-liners -- some borrowed from Prince’s own paintings -- and a comic reading of the actual jokes contained in Sigmund Freud’s Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious. "Many of us consider Uncle Miltie to be the originator of appropriation," O’Brien noted. "He was really an archivist, he assembled the Milton Berle Private Joke File, which contains over 10,000 jokes, only a small percentage of which have been appropriated by Richard Prince, the Milton Berle of art."

Accompanying O’Brien on the piano was jazzman Robert Aaron. Second on the dais was Stuart Parr, Eminem’s producer, who read what purported to be congratulatory telegrams from Larry Gagosian, Peter Brant, Silvio Berlusconi, Arnold Scwharzenegger and other notables, hilarious impersonations that were all done in the proper accents.

Among the attendees, seated around half a dozen tables in the "Milton Berle Room," dining on halibut or veal chops, was Prince himself, of course, with his wife, Noel, plus Guggenheim Museum curator Nancy Spector, artist Dan Colen, photographer Terry Richardson, Sotheby’s chief Lisa Dennison, neurosurgeon Dr. Frank Moore and his wife Nina, Cynthia Rowley and husband Bill Powers, Alberto and David Mugrabi, Tony Shafrazi, Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann, writer James Frey, and Adam Lindemann and his wife, dealer Amalia Dayan.

The occasion was to garner support for a forthcoming exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris titled "American Prayer," organized by Robert Rubin (the ex-commodity trader who founded the Bridge golf club in the Hamptons, not the ex-U.S. Treasury secretary) and slated to open in March 2011. The show includes some of Prince’s extensive collections of books and such as well as his artworks, and things from the bibliothèque as well. "It will be a strange exhibition," Prince said. "No one will go see it," he added, referring perhaps to the library’s out-of-the-way location in Paris.

Today the fabled Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian Institution gets a brand new setting, a necklace dubbed "Embracing Hope," which surrounds the 45.52-carat deep blue gem with a sculptural ribbon of 340 baguette diamonds set in platinum (by a team of jewelers working for more than 1,000 hours).

The temporary setting is a gift of jeweler supreme Harry Winston, Inc., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Harry Winston’s donation of the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian in 1958, helping to found the country’s National Gem Collection. A new documentary about the diamond, titled Mystery of the Hope Diamond, is scheduled to air on the Smithsonian Channel on Nov. 21, 2010.

The jeweler also announced a gift in excess of $1 million to support the museum’s educational initiatives, funds to be generated by the future sale of "Embracing Hope," reset with a different precious gemstone.

Ireland’s economic troubles are much in the news right now -- and if you want to look for a symbol of the island nation’s economic woes, look no further than the paintings of Brian McCarthy. His "Boomtown" series, shown recently at Dublin’s Keeling Gallery, has attracted quite a bit of attention, featuring canvasses that depict the debt-plagued country as a vast shantytown, the Irish people as a inhabiting a raft on a storm-tossed sea, and an angry crowd lighting fires beneath a giant Irish flag, seemingly preparing for revolt.

"I never planned to do a series of paintings on this subject but when the first piece 'Boomtown' got such a great reaction, I decided to turn it into a series," McCarthy told the Irish Independent. "I've never known such a response. People seem to identify and understand perfectly what I'm feeling because they feel the same."

Maybe one doesn’t have to directly experience Ireland’s pain to get the paintings, though. One Irishman that the "Boomtown" paintings have struck a particular chord with is uber-rich Dermot Desmond (one of the world’s richest men, sometimes called "The Kaiser.") The Independent reports that Desmond snatched up the mob scene, called Sword of Justice, for €4,500. "Dermot is a genuine patron of the arts," McCarthy said.

Julian Lennon, son of John Lennon -- but not Yoko Ono -- will be on the scene this December for Art Basel Miami Beach, offering "Timeless," a selling exhibition of some 30 of his photographs. The show goes up at the New Generation Green Room of the Adrienne Arsht Centre for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Dec. 1-5, 2010, and is curated by celebrity photographer Timothy White. The works are described as "pictorial landscapes and cloudscapes that are like poetic vignettes of an emotionally powerful life and portraits that seamlessly connect the viewer to the soul of the subject as if the camera were absent," though the selection also includes photos he has taken of U2 and his brother, the musician Sean Lennon. Julian also showed off his photographic interests earlier this year in New York, at the Morrison Hotel Gallery Bowery,Sept. 17-Oct. 7, 2010

If you’re in the Bronx this Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, between 4pm and 8pm, be sure and stop by the Home Art Gallery of Inside Out Art, at 1591 Metropolitan Avenue. The event celebrates the new initiative, spearheaded by Carolyn Sanford, which promotes and sells the artworks of non-violent prisoners. The mission of the organization explains, "This program has been developed to help ex-offenders remain productive once released from prison. . . providing support to their families after many years of incarceration."

Says Artnet Magazine associate editor Ben Davis, "I’ve known Carolyn for years now -- she’s one of the most compassionate advocates for these artists that you could imagine. Carolyn treats men who are victims of America’s excessively punitive drug war as real human beings, giving them a much-needed place to express themselves as creative individuals -- and some of them are very creative indeed! I have a print by one of her guys on my own wall."

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