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Artnet News
July 30, 2009 

The College Art Association (CAA) has teamed up with the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of U.S. v. Stevens, set to go before the Supreme Court in the fall. Though the case ostensibly involves the right to distribute depictions of animal cruelty -- it stems from a case in which a Pennsylvania man was sentenced to 37 months in prison for selling videos of dogs fighting and training to hunt -- CAA and NCAC argue that criminalizing representations of illegal acts would be a mistake. The two art groups fear that a decision suppressing the videos could set a precedent whereby "Congress and the states could outlaw the creation and possession of artworks that depict certain types of conduct simply on the basis that the conduct itself is illegal."

The law was already struck down by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals as unconstitutional, but the government is appealing to the nation’s highest court, meaning that any ruling could have a potentially wide impact. Disturbingly, according to the NCAC, the law is being defended by the Barack Obama administration, on the grounds that a "social interest in order and morality" trumps First Amendment rights, and that the law is defensible because it contains an exception for works deemed to be of "serious value." In response, NCAC argues that in the past the government itself has sought to ban such practices as "flag burning, as well as some video games, rap music, and videos" on the basis of their immorality, judgments that are by no means universal.

The NCAC and CAA brief also gives the court (and perhaps the Obama administration?) a little art-history lesson. It offers a catalogue of examples of art that was deemed immoral, later to be accepted into the canon. It goes into a long explanation of the history of the reception of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain; recounts the U.S. government’s erroneous classification of Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Flight as a non-artistic "piece of metal"; and points out that in their day, most critics would not have found works by Monet, Degas, Pissarro and Renoir to be of "serious value."

The brief also points to a contemporary case particularly germane to U.S. v. Stevens, the uproar over the animal fighting videos of Adel Abdessemed. CAA/NCAC actually cite both Jerry Saltz’s article on the art-world controversy, and a review of Abdessemed’s recent David Zwirner exhibition by Artnet Magazine’s own associate editor Ben Davis [see "Animal Spirits", Apr. 30, 2009], to illustrate how slippery questions of "value" are within contemporary art when it comes to depictions of animal cruelty -- particularly since artists do not always say exactly what they intend.

The full CAA/NCAC brief is viewable online at U.S. v. Stevens is set to be argued before the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2009.

The 31-year-old French graffiti artist Zevs (née Christophe Schwarz), known for his drippy versions of corporate logos (e.g. Liquidated McDonalds, Liquidated Coca-Cola, Liquidated White LV Murakami), has been detained in Hong Kong. He was captured while putting a large, drippy black Chanel logo on the façade of an Armani boutique, and has been slapped with a HK$6,746,000 fine (ca. $870,000), according to the South China Morning Post. The amount is so high because prosecutors claim that the entire façade will have to be replaced. The stunt was part of Zevs’ show at Hong Kong’s Art Statements, July 16-Sept. 30, 2009.

For Andy Warhol completists: Just released is Andy Warhol Presents Man on the Moon, a document of one of the King of Pop Art’s less-celebrated personas -- off-Broadway producer. The CD recovers the short-lived, campy, psychedelic musical Man on the Moon, written by Mamas & Papas singer John Phillips, which tells the story of a bomb (played by a man) that is sent to the moon, and an astronaut who is sent after it to detonate it; on the way, the astronaut bumps into extraterrestrials who try to convince him not to follow through with his mission, and even try to woo him with a little romance.

Warhol produced the show (a playbill describes him with characteristic sagacity as "an artist and filmmaker who resides in New York") along with Richard Turley, while frequent Wahol collaborator Paul Morrissey directed. Players included Dennis Doherty (one of the "Papas"), Genevieve Waite (Phillips third wife, and mother of Bijou Phillips) and Monique Van Vooren (the camp beauty queen made famous by Warhol’s 1974 Frankenstein). Man on the Moon opened at the Little Theater at Broadway and 44th street in January 1975, closing after a run of just five days, following what calls "disastrous reviews." For the curious, snippets of songs from the show like Andy’s Talking Blues, Penthouse of Your Mind and A Myth Amongst the Family of Man are also available for listen at Amazon, where the CD can also be purchased for $15.98.

The album is not just a document of this flop, however, but in some way also bears the stamp of Warhol’s hand. It is composed mainly of new recordings of the songs by Phillips with a backing band, but also includes five tracks that were recorded by Andy himself with a mono portable cassette recorder, which constitute the only audio recording of the fully orchestrated musical. These cassette tapes, apparently, found their way to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, which in turn converted them to digital files, which were in turn spruced up at The Magic Shop Recording Studio in New York for the current release.

The Guggenheim Museum continues its 50th birthday celebration this fall with "Kandinsky," Sept. 18, 2009-Jan. 13, 2010, the full-scale survey of works by visionary abstractionist Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944) co-organized with the Städtische Galerie in Munich and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where it has already appeared. The show boasts 100 paintings plus another 60 works on paper, and is organized by Gugg curator Tracey Bashkoff, Pompidou curator Christian Derouet and Städtische Galerie curator Annegret Hoberg. Guggenheim Museum assistant curator Karole Vail assisted with the organization of the New York presentation. The 320-page catalogue to the show is priced at $55 (cloth) and $35 (paper).

Accompanying the Kandinsky retrospective is "Gabriele Munter and Vasily Kandinsky, 1902-14: A Life in Photographs," on view at the Sackler Center for Arts Education in the museum’s lower level. The museum is also screening Grahame Weinbren’s film, Kandinsky: A Close Look, every Friday in the museum’s New Media Theater.

The 36th edition of the FIAC art fair, Oct. 22-25, 2009 at the Grand Palais and the Louvre Courtyard, is adding two new features in the face of the art-market recession, features that go both high and low, so to speak, overtly appealing to modernist classics and the very new. At the Grand Palais is to be a group presentation of modern masterworks by ten top galleries, while at the Cour Carrée of the Louvre is a new subsidized section for "14 emerging international galleries," underwritten in part by the Groupe Galeries Lafayette.

All told, FIAC 2009 expects to present 196 art galleries from 21 different countries, with 75 hailing from France (29 percent), 21 from Germany, 18 from the U.S., 16 from Italy and 14 from Belgium; newly represented countries include Finland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Sixty-one galleries are exhibiting at FIAC for the first time.

Conner Contemporary Art
in Washington, D.C., presents "Academy 2009," Aug. 1-Sept. 4, 2009, its ninth annual invitational survey of work by local MFA grads. Organized by Jamie Smith, the show includes works by Celina Amaya, Danny Baskin, Alan Callander, Charles Clary, Margot Ellis, Kyle Ford, Jeremy Flick, Corey Grimsley, Steve Ioli, Casey Reed Johnson, Jin Young Kang, Patrick McDonough, Aziza Murray, Igor Pasternak, Ding Ren, Alex Roulette, Andrew Schrock, Ryan Schroeder and Rafael Soldi. For more info, see

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson may not have quite made it into the Obama administration (he was briefly nominated as Commerce Secretary, but withdrew), but he did show up at Art Santa Fe, July 23-26, 2009. Art-loving visitors in the New Mexico state capital for the fair noted several new and new-ish galleries had opened in the town, despite rumors of an art-market slowdown. A selection:

* LewAllen Galleries, a 30-year veteran of the New Mexico art scene, has opened in addition to its downtown gallery a huge and beautiful new space, including a sculpture deck, in Santa Fe’s Railyard District. On view there is "Dan Christensen: Lyrical Spray Canvases, 1960s to the 1990s," July 31-Sept. 13. For an online preview, click here

* The Leslie Gallery opened in the new ArtYard Community development on the edge of the Railyard District, featuring works by three generations of the Leslie family -- bronze sculptor James Leslie, painter Linda Leslie and furniture craftsman James Leslie DuBosque.

* Skotia Gallery opened a two-level, loft-like gallery downtown, near Santa Fe’s central plaza. The gallery, represents artists ranging from Katelyn Alain and Juliette Aristides to Raghava KK, an emerging artist from India who works out of New York. An exhibition of Raghava’s work, titled "The Issues of Chronic Abstraction," is on view through Aug. 6, 2009.

* Evoke Contemporary, opened by Kathrine Erickson, who spent 27 years in the art business, also has very good local buzz. On view now is a show of sculptures, constructions, paintings and charcoals by the young Mexican artist Yuri Zatarain.

According to the Nashville Scene, the well-respected non-profit Ruby Green Contemporary Arts Center is closing. The Nashville art center had in the past been beneficiary of the Warhol Foundation’s "Warhol Initiative," which supports innovative small to mid-sized arts institutions. The closing followed a period of financial difficulties and various efforts to reinvent itself, including converting itself into artist studio space. "Ruby Green is said to be looking for new space -- a new lease and a new lease on life -- and Nashville is probably looking for a new Ruby Green," writes Scene arts writer David C. Maddox. "With luck, maybe they can be one and the same."

The Manhattan-based Chambers Fine Art is going out of town for the summer, and presenting "Art and Rocks: Nature Found and Made" July 25-Sept. 15, 2009, at ArtFarm, its new exhibition space in Salt Point, N.Y., which is located about 85 miles north of New York in the Hudson Valley. The show features contemporary artworks inspired by ancient Chinese scholars rocks, including new driftwood sculptures by the China specialist Robert B. Oxnam as well as bronze sculptures by Martin Kline, ceramic sculptures by Meng Zhao, paintings by Hong Lei and a stainless steel artificial rock by Zhan Wang.

Designed in 2006 by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with HHF Architects in Basel, ArtFarm consists of three interconnected steel structures, typically used for agricultural purposes, with an all-white, climate controlled interior, marked by a concrete-slab floor and a ceiling quilted with white PVC fabric (the construction cost, according to reports, was approximately $320,000). The facility is open by appointment; contact

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