CHARGE ADMISSION TO THE SMITHSONIAN?
Cutting the military budget and taxing the rich may be off the table as far as balancing the federal budget, but we can always raise funds by charging money to look at art. Or so thinks the ostensibly bipartisan Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which has proposed cutting funding for the Smithsonian Institution by $225 million and instead charging a $7.50 admission fee to Smithsonian Museums.
One D.C. insider calls the Smithsonian’s open-door policy "an indulgence the country can no longer afford," while a commenter at the Matthew Yglesias Think Progress blog notes that "discouraging learning is obviously a high priority" for conservatives. Those who remember the culture wars of the 1990s will recognize the strategy, which pits the arts against other social goods, leaving other options out of the discussion entirely.
"PEDOPHILE" SCULPTURE TOO HOT FOR NEW MEXICO?
It was a title designed to provoke, and New Mexico artist Shane Shane (real name) has indeed provoked a reaction with The Last Pedophile, on view at last weekend’s Weems International Artfest in Albuquerque, Nov. 12-14. 2010. The 1,100-pound metal sculpture consists of a large metal sheet with a cut-out in it in the shape of a man, resembling a chalk outline marking a crime scene. A second, recessed metal plate set in the cut-out space is pockmarked with bullet holes, while the words "The Last Pedophile" are scrawled on the top of the sculpture. It is valued at $4,200, according to news reports.
Though the artwork features no images of pedophilia, the title itself apparently provoked complaints, and the director of the Weems International Artfest ordered the sculpture to be covered over with a tarp on Friday. On Sunday, New Mexico State Police confiscated the artwork -- though they claimed that their motivation was that Shane Shane’s trailer did not have a VIN number and was parked the wrong way on the street outside the festival venue. As of Monday, the statue remained impounded, though the artist was invited to pick it up if he could provide three forms of proof that he owned it. According to local news, the director of Weems Art Fest offered to pay the impound costs.
IRELAND PLANS AMBITIOUS ARTFEST
Financial markets are currently being roiled with fears about Ireland’s solvency -- and that fact may just have prompted the former Celtic Tiger to launch an ambitious new international art initiative, Dublin Contemporary, Sept. 6-Oct. 31, 2011. Modeled after high-profile international art events like the Venice Biennale and Documenta, the initiative boasts that it is set to bring €13.5 million into the Irish economy.
The Dublin Contemporary curatorial team is led by Irish Museum of Modern Art curator Rachael Thomas, and includes ubiquitous art-world talker Hans Ulrich Obrist, globetrotting super-curator Okwui Enwezor, Centre Pompidou curator Christine Macel, Irish Museum of Modern Art director Enrique Juncosa, visual art specialist Oliver Dowling and Irish artist Gerard Byrne.
Irish Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin was on hand for the New York City press conference to announce the initiative. For more info, check out the new festival’s official website www.dublincontemporary.com
RICHARDSON, MCGINLEY DECORATE HOSPITAL
Quick: When you hear the words "adolescent behavioral health," what artist comes to mind? Perhaps not Terry Richardson, the hard-working fashion photographer who has gained something of a reputation for sexual debauchery (at least according to the women’s gossip website Jezebel)? Nevertheless, Richardson was the choice of the distinguished nonprofit RXArt, which specializes in enlivening hospitals with contemporary art, for its project to decorate the adolescent behavioral health floors of Kings County Hospital.
Richardson’s contributions are relatively anodyne, needless to say. According to an interview with RXArt president Diane Brown for Art21, "For this project, Terry took photos of small children, all giving the thumbs up sign. You can’t look at them without smiling. It is sending such an optimistic message -- from these small, healthy children to children in Kings County who hopefully will be smiling and holding their thumbs up soon."
The thumbs-up sign happens to be Richardson’s own signature gesture. Also coming to RXArt’s Kings County Hospital is another artist known for images of nubile and naked youth: Ryan McGinley. A pic of McGinley’s installation-in-progress from the RXArt Twitter feed shows images of daredevil skiers, snowboarders and swimmers. All of the subjects appear to have their clothes on.
GRACE JONES SNUBBS CINCINNATI MUSEUM
Seventies icon Grace Jones has snubbed the Cincinnati Art Museum, according to a story published in the November issue of the Art Newspaper. In a rare commission of a contemporary work of art, CAM had decided to tap artist Kehinde Wiley -- known for his portraits of African-American men in a style associated with baroque painting -- to do a portrait of Jones modeled after Thomas Gainsborough’s Ann Ford (Later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse) (1760), part of the museum’s collection highlighted in the current "Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman," Sept. 18, 2010-Jan. 2, 2011. Show curator Benedict Leca even travelled to New York to meet with Jeffrey Deitch (who was Wiley’s dealer before moving on to direct the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art), who apparently at one point had the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen lined up to create a bespoke dress for the portrait.
The problem was that all this preparation went ahead without the knowledge of Grace Jones herself. Despite some considerable leg work to try and contact the actress to set up a sitting, she remained MIA, and the Wiley/Jones team-up will go down as one of those great unrealized art projects (though Wiley says that he’s still game). Jones’ elusiveness seems curious given her recent collaboration on a series of "holographic portraits" with Chris Levine, on view at the Vinyl Factory at the "Multiplied" art fair during Frieze Week in October.
HANUKKAH 2010 AT THE JEWISH MUSEUM
Art lovers, are you looking forward to Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish "Festival of Lights" (it runs Dec. 1-9, 2010)? Then the Jewish Museum has got the stuff for you. "Light x Eight: Hanukkah at the Jewish Museum," a new annual celebration, features two special programs:
* "A Hanukkah Project: Daniel Libeskind’s Line of Fire," Nov. 19, 2010-Jan. 30, 2011, presents 40 lamps from the museum collection in an installation -- featuring a jagged, brilliant red "line of fire" bisecting the gallery -- designed by the deconstructivist architect.
* Artists Alice Aycock, Matthew McCaslin and Lyn Godley each have major sculptures related to Hanukkah added to the Jewish Museum collection, including Aycock’s Greased Lightning (1984), a motorized kinetic sculpture of a giant dreidel, and McCaslin’s Bring the Light (2000), a Hanukkah lamp made of electrical conduit, light switches and porcelain light fixtures.