ROCCO LANDESMAN COMES OUT FIGHTING
Could the long, dark night of the National Endowment for the Arts be about to end? The agency was certainly beaten down during the Republican ascendancy, but how much of a renaissance can we expect, even under the Barack Obama administration? According to a report in the New York Times, new NEA head Rocco Landesman, 62, whose appointment was confirmed by the Senate last week, is not pulling any punches. He argues that the endowment deserves a substantial budgetary increase from its current $155 million, which he calls "embarrassing."
Furthermore, Landesman says, NEA should fund the best art, rather than distribute its monies to every Congressional district. He would also urge Congress to reinstate individual artists’ fellowships, which were eliminated in 1996 as part of the right-wing attack on government funding for culture. As for new programs, he suggests that home equity loans and rent subsidies for artists would be appropriate.
And Landesman has a new NEA slogan -- "Art Works." "Someone who works in the arts is every bit as gainfully employed as someone who works in an auto plant or steel mill," he says.
NFL REACHES OUT TO CONTEMPORARY ART WORLD
Two separate pro football franchises -- the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins -- made the announcement this week that they were getting a contemporary art makeover.
By far the more ambitious is the so-called "Dallas Cowboys Art Program," launched as an amenity at the new $1.15-billion Cowboys Stadium with the help of star curators Michael Auping (of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) and Charles Wylie (of the Dallas Museum of Art), collectors Howard Rachofsky and Gayle Stoffel, and San Francisco art advisor Mary Zlot. With talent like that on board, you’re virtually guaranteed something to pique the interest of even the most single-minded football fan (or at least distract visitors from the mini-scandal over the $60 cheese pizzas served at the new stadium). And indeed, the (appropriately testosterone-heavy) roster of artists promises some avant-garde fireworks: Look for works by Franz Ackermann, Mel Bochner, Daniel Buren, Olafur Eliasson, Dave Muller, Matthew Ritchie and Lawrence Weiner installed on the entry ramps, staircases, pedestrian ramps and in the main concession areas.
In a press release, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones summed up the logic of the pairing of art and sport, saying, "Football is full of the unexpected and the spontaneous -- it can make two strangers into friends. Art has the power to do that too, to get people talking, and looking, and interacting."
This is a sentiment shared, apparently, by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, who has just announced that Land Shark Stadium will be getting a makeover courtesy of Miami-based Neo-Pop artist Romero Britto. The artist is being brought in to decorate the entrances to the stadium with his "iconic helixes," and the project is expected to be unveiled in time for the season opening against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 21. The fine art initiative is described as part of Ross’ "grand plan for making the Dolphins the most talked about franchise in professional sports," and was announced on Aug. 7, at a fashion show marking the debut of the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders’ 2010 "Swimsuit Calendar," emceed by rapper T-Pain.
CHRISTIE’S PULLS AHEAD IN AUCTION-HOUSE RACE
Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have announced their auction-sale totals for the first six months of 2009, and Christie’s has pulled dramatically ahead -- though both are down dramatically from 2008. Christie’s announced total sales of $1.8 billion, compared to $995 million for Sotheby’s. Last year, Christie’s total for the first half was $3.2 billion, while Sotheby’s notched $3 billion.
Christie’s advantage in 2009 can be attributed largely to the sale in February of its Yves Saint Laurent Pierre Berge Collection in Paris, which totaled $484 million. The Saint Laurent sale helped Christie’s dominate in the Impressionist and modern art category, selling a total of $621 million compared to $240 million for Sotheby’s. Both houses were about equal in the contemporary market, with Christie’s selling $192 million and Sotheby’s $200 million.
In its more detailed filing, Sotheby’s reported that net income in the second quarter of 2009 dropped to $12.2 million, from $95.3 million a year earlier. Sotheby’s said it reduced its operating costs by $73.5 million, or 39 percent, over the last year.
PRICES RISE FOR OLYMPIA FAIR
Florida-based air organizers David and Lee Ann Lester have an ingenious new plan for the next Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair, which they have taken over and renamed the London International Fine Art Fair, June 4-13, 2010. Increasing attendance is the first priority, Lester told the Antiques Trade Gazette, and to that end he is charging each of the approximately 240 exhibitors a marketing fee of £1,500 (double last year’s levy). Exhibitors receive unlimited complimentary tickets to the fair, and are given a £5 refund for each that is used -- thus, if a gallery persuades 300 people to visit the fair, it can recoup its entire marketing fee. The rental cost of stands is also increasing, which is designed in part to make the event more exclusive. Lester says he expects the fair to fill quickly.
JULIETTE BINOCHE, PAINTER
Paintings and poetry by French actress Juliette Binoche go on view at the French Embassy Cultural Services at Fifth Avenue and East 79th Street, Sept. 10-Oct. 9, 2009. "In-Eyes," as the show is called, features 58 ink washes, largely portraits of characters Binoche has played and the directors of her films. The show is her first in the U.S., though Binoche has been painting far longer. Her work was featured in the 1991 movie The Lovers on the Bridge, in which she played a painter.
Binoche should be all over Manhattan this September, as she performs in "In-I" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which also mounts a film retrospective. Binoche acts in one new film, Paris by Cédric Klapisch, and is the subject of another, a documentary by her sister, Marion Stalens. Last but not least is the release of a book of her paintings. For more info, see www.frenchculture.org
ROCK & ROLL BLOWOUT
Rock photographers finally get their day in the museum sun this fall with "Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History 1955-Present," Oct. 30, 2009-Jan. 31, 2010, at the Brooklyn Museum, and touring. Organized by freelance scholar Gail Buckland, the show (and accompanying book from Knopf) features more than 250 photos, "cataloguing everyone from Albert Watson’s Mick Jagger to Bob Gruen’s John Lennon, Maripol’s Madonna to Richard Avedon’s Beatles, David LaChapelle’s Lil Kim to Henry Diltz’s Tina Turner."
"HARD TIMES" AT SMITHSONIAN
The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C., has opened "Hard Times, 1929-1939," Aug. 10-Nov. 8, 2009, a show devoted to the stock market crash of 1929 and its effect on American artists. The exhibition features photographs, journals, business records and oral-history interviews -- ten audio excerpts are included -- documenting the rise of artists unions and government art projects during the Depression. For more info, see www.aaa.si.edu
BODHI ART RETRENCHES
Bodhi Art, the hip art gallery that was the standard bearer for the Indian contemporary art market, has sounded a retreat. As late as the end of last year, the gallery had locations in New York, Berlin and Singapore, as well as in the Indian cities Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai. Now, only the Mumbai office remains open, according to an article in India’s Business Standard. Bodhi was one of the highest profile additions to the international art circuit, opening five galleries in two years, showing at the Armory Show, Art Chicago and Art Miami, and representing big names in Indian contemporary like Reena Saini Kallat, Shilpa Gupta and Subodh Gupta. The gallery is next set to show at India Art Summit, Aug. 19-22, 2009, in New Dehli.
NEW AIPAD MEMBERS
The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, has elected eight new members to the organization. New members are Amador Gallery (New York), Danziger Projects (New York), Gallery 339 (Philadelphia), Charles Guice Contemporary (Berkeley), Higher Pictures (New York), Monroe Gallery of Photography (Santa Fe), Photography at Quaritch (London) and Rick Wester Fine Art (New York).
PARSONS PHOTO MFAS ON VIEW
Interested in new talent in photography? Parsons the New School for Design puts on its annual exhibition of work by MFA photography grads at the Johnson Center at 66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street in Manhattan, Aug. 24-Sept. 11, 2009. Exhibitors include Madiha Aijaz, Emily Cameron, Jenna Choate, Francesco Donato, Jacqulyn Drayton, Daniel Durtsche, Amy Theiss Giese, Aaron E. Gustafson, Erik M. Heck, Olga Migliaressi Phoca, Lauren Pascarella, Peter Snyder, Keith Telfeyan, Merve Unsal and Jessica Yatrofsky.