TOM HOVING’S MET MEMORIAL
The late Thomas Hoving (Jan. 15, 1931-Dec. 10, 2009) was head of the New York City parks department for 16 months, and director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for ten years -- and managed to transform both institutions completely. Such was the message of the memorial celebration held for Hoving’s family and colleagues at the Metropolitan on Apr. 5, 2010, a gathering that took place in front of the Temple of Dendur, which Hoving had secured for the museum (rather than allowing it to end up on the banks of the Potomac), with his sunny Central Park visible through the gallery’s curtain wall. Out front was an honor guard of NYC park troopers, including two on horseback, and the flags on the museum plaza flew at half mast.
Remarks were offered by Hoving’s daughter, Trea Hoving, and his nephew, John Hoving, while Tom’s wife, Nancy Hoving, sat in the front row alongside their three lovely granddaughters. Brief remembrances were offered as well as by Met director emeritus Philippe de Montebello, Dallas Museum of Art director emeritus Harry Parker III, former NYC parks commissioner Henry J. Stern and Hoving’s 20/20 producer, Donvan B. Moore, Jr. Family friend Judy Collins sang two songs: Both Sides Now, which she had dedicated to Hoving at a concert in the park in 1968 -- "Tom had decided it was okay to let people sing in the park," she said -- and, in closing, Amazing Grace. On view in the room was Andrew Wyeth’s 1993 watercolor portrait of Hoving, The Director, along with half a dozen LCD screens, which played Moments with Tommy, a special collection of video clips from early home movies, network television appearances and Artnet TV. One of many notable television moments included an early appearance on the Larry King Show where, in a debate over artistic freedom, Hoving calls Dick Armey a "bozo."
De Montebello, in his homage to Hoving’s many accomplishments -- which included launching a museum design department, so important now for the dramatic presentation of museum objects, as well as the hiring of Henry Geldzahler, the museum’s legendary first curator of contemporary art -- touched on one initiative that was greeted with intense criticism, and never realized: the $40-million Annenberg Center for fine arts and communications. De Montebello suggested that Hoving was merely ahead of his time, and that the project was a brick-and-mortar anticipation of the kind of cyberspace art-and-museum-world now found on the internet.
"Tommy lead an extraordinary life," said John Hoving in closing. "He knew that, and was grateful for it." Much of the material from the memorial, including many photographs and the video mentioned above, can be viewed on a new website, www.tomhoving.com. And Hoving’s final book, Artful Tom, A Memoir, remains available online in Artnet Magazine, as are the many articles and columns he wrote for us (his archive is here).
JEFF KOONS GOES ABSTRACT FOR BMW
In Manhattan on Apr. 6, 2010, BMW held yet another lavishly catered event to tout the company’s new "Art Car" designed by Jeff Koons, the latest in a long-running (if infrequent) series of collaborations with artists that began with Andy Warhol in 1979 and includes one-off cars decorated by Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Jenny Holzer and Olafur Eliasson, among others. Koons’ "canvas" in this case is a BMW M3 GT2, which is to race at Le Mans in France, June 12-13, 2010. The focus at the press rollout was squarely on car racing, with Koons posing with British driver Andy Priaulx, who is the car’s driver at Le Mans.
From an art point of view, however, the project is notable in that Koons’ "Art Car" arguably represents one of his rare fully abstract works. True, a recent suite of paintings at Gagosian gallery in Los Angeles flirted with the history of abstract painting, but Koons’ BMW goes full monty -- don’t expect any nudes riding inflatable dolphins, just a pattern of rainbow-colored racing stripes inspired, the artist said, by moving lines of Christmas tree lights. (Perhaps the work that is closest in spirit is the camouflage pattern he did for the yacht of mogul Dakis Joannou.) Koons told assembled journalists that he attempted to distill the "esthetics of winning," adding, "It is really important to me that the team win."
E.U. CHARTER TO BE STAGED AS POEM
Where better to look for a sense of mass relevance than the world of contemporary poetry, with its vast popular audience? This seems to be the thinking of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which has issued a call to turn the European Union’s "Charter of Fundamental Rights" into an epic poem, provisionally titled "Charter in Poems," which will in turn be staged as an 80-minute performance project "supported by multimedia elements and/or other artistic performances (dance, music, etc.)." The poem-cum-performance art piece is scheduled for Dec. 7, 2010, at the Fundamental Rights Conference in Brussels, Belgium. Sadly for would-be poets, the application process closed Mar. 19 -- according to the UK Telegraph, five poets replied to the challenge.
"We hope to raise the visibility of the charter via a nice, literary manifestation of the document in a way that brings the charter to life," FRA spokesman Friso Roscam-Abbing told the EU Observer. What to expect? The prospectus calls for the poem section to be written in "English (literary language)" (somewhat humorously, as Britain has actually opted out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights). The text of the "charter" is online, here.
"WIKIPEDIA SAVES PUBLIC ART"
Public art is everywhere, but so far it has no central database. Could Wikipedia provide one? Jennifer Geigel Mikulay, a scholar at Indiana University-Purdue, and Richard S. McCoy, a conservator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, think so, and have launched "Wikipedia Saves Public Art," an initiative to log articles on public art on the collaboratively edited online encyclopedia. Interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the duo said that public art needed "saving" in the sense that it is often temporary and commissioned by a variety of entities, and thus lacks any central catalogue. Mikulay has asked her students to put in some free labor researching and writing Wikipedia articles on area public art projects, complete with carefully logged GPS coordinates so that art-lovers can use the site to find works. Mikulay and McCoy hope that the model will catch on around the country.
But do temporary public sculptures in Indianapolis fit the criteria of "relevance" for the infamous Wikipedia administrators? According to the Chronicle, McCoy had to argue hard against the deletion of an entry on a sculpture titled Bucket of Rocks by Amber Lewis on Purdue’s campus -- but ultimately prevailed.
GLASGOW ART FEST
"Past, Present, Future" is the theme of the upcoming Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, Apr. 15-May 3, 2010, which brings over 50 artists to the city’s museums, galleries and other spaces, all under the direction of Katrina Brown. Glasgow artist David Shrigley is at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow-born sound artist Susan Philipsz has done a sound work for the bridges over the River Clyde, and Scottish artist Douglas Gordon presents a new video installation in the Tramway theater. Other artists taking part include Claire Barclay, Christoph Büchel, Gerard Byrne, Alice Channer, Keren Cytter, Jimmie Durham, Graham Eatough, Linder, David Maljkovic, David Noonan, Fiona Tan and Leslie Thornton. Participating commercial galleries include the Modern Institute, which debuts its new space with a show by Jim Lambie, plus Transmission Gallery, Lowsalt, Market Gallery, Mary Mary, FINN Collective and SWG3.
IRAQI ARTISTS AND THE WAR: A SYMPOSIUM
"Beyond the War: Contemporary Iraqi Artists of the Diaspora," Apr. 7-30, 2010, an exhibition of works by seven contemporary Iraqi artists selected by Gayle Wells Mandle, opens at Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The artists in the exhibition include Dia Azzawi, Ahmed Al-Bahrani, Amar Dawod, Hannaa Malallah, Mahmud Al-Obaidi, Kareem Risan and Nazar Yahya.
Wells Mandle, a U.S. citizen who currently lives in Doha, Qatar, is leading a symposium titled "Beyond the War" at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts, 1 East 78th Street, on Apr. 7, 2010, 4-5:30 pm. Participants include Iraqi American art historian Nada Shabout and several artists with work in the exhibition. The public is welcome.