"WORK OF ART: THE WINNER"
Love it or hate it, Bravo’s art-reality-game show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist has definitely been a highlight of the 2010 art season. If nothing else, the series has prompted New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz to embrace diaristic art blogging with a vengeance, with his weekly commentary on each episode -- sensitive, revealing, smart -- drawing scores of online comments. Saltz is easily one of our best-liked art writers, and we all hope that he can kick the blog habit and return to writing some actual art criticism when "Work of Art" comes to a close!
And the end is nigh. The as-yet-to-be-announced winner stars in an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, aptly titled "Work of Art: The Winner," Aug. 14-Oct. 17, 2010. At this writing, only three contestants remain -- Miles, the skilled but slightly OCD-plagued carpenter and photographer who is seeming more and more "Duchampian" in his attitude to the show; Jaclyn, the likable photographer and illustrator whose readiness to disrobe has somehow been cast as a critique of the male gaze; and the dark horse, Peregrine, the sparky illustrator who operates a "panty boutique" in her native Kansas City. For superfans, a special rsvp reception for the three finalists is slated for the museum on Aug. 11, 9-11:30 pm, but you didn’t hear it from us.
[Oops -- at this writing, five artists remain in "Work of Art": Abdi, Jaclyn, Miles, Nicole and Peregrine.]
ARTISTS AND WRITERS AGAINST SB1070
With Arizona pressing ahead with its notorious racial profiling law, SB1070 -- despite the injunction of a judge, who has put the kibosh on some of the more draconian aspects of the law -- artsy types are turning up the heat with a call for a boycott of the state. The Asian American Writers Workshop has put together "Wordstrike," an initiative decrying the law: "As writers, we are conscious of the power of the written word," the letter states. "The statutory language of SB 1070 wields the power of the state to decree that the narratives of certain people simply do not count."
Among the original signatories of the statement are lefty types like Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein, but also famous novelists like Russell Banks, Junot Díaz, Michael Ondaatje and Salman Rushdie, as well as world music guru Ry Cooder, essayist and My Dinner with Andre writer Wallace Shawn, and the maestro of bad taste, John Waters. To view the whole letter -- or to sign on -- click here
GOOD REVIEWS FOR OBAMA-CAMERON PAINTING SWAP
Did last week’s art trade between Barack Obama and recently elected British prime minister David Cameron set "new heights of greatness in meaningful diplomatic gift-giving"? Such, at least, is the verdict of the Daily Beast, which has some behind-the-scenes details about the gift swap. The occasion was a meeting between the two leaders at the White House on Tuesday, July 20, 2010. Apparently, in addition to an agenda that included the fate of BP following the Gulf oil spill and the war in Afghanistan, the two men had agreed in advance to use artworks as part of the traditional diplomatic exchange of gifts.
Obama gave Cameron a print by L.A. pop legend Ed Ruscha, Column with Speed Lines, valued at $7,000 according to experts consulted by the Daily Beast. The work is from an edition produced by L.A. printmakers Gemini G.E.L. given to the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. In return, Cameron offered a colorful text art piece by London street artist Ben Eine, Twenty First Century City. According to the Evening Standard, the Eine is worth £2,500. It was donated to Downing Street by Eine’s representative, Art Republic Gallery -- and the artist says that two more from the edition are available for the same price, or at least they were last week.
So what do the selections say about the two politicians, as a statement? Ruscha, of course, is a classic, and connotes good taste and a certain sleek modern sensibility -- though Obama’s sangfroid is something that pundits pick on, and the association with the affectless Ruscha is going to do nothing to improve that image.
Cameron’s choice is more complex. Eine is Banksy’s official printmaker, and as the artist himself told the Standard, it’s likely that the selection is an oblique reference to the role another street artist, Shepard Fairey, played in Obama’s election (the President’s official thank-you letter to Fairey states that, "Your images have a profound impact on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign.") On the other hand, the selection of the obscure and edgy Eine seems an attempt for the ruling-class Cameron to gain some street cred -- at a time when he is presiding over massive cuts in arts funding.
TAUBA AUERBACH ROCKS NEW WHITNEY SITE
The Whitney Museum of American Art is definitely committed to building a massive new facility over by the High Line in western Greenwich Village -- and for proof has commissioned a new public sculpture on the site. For her installation Quarry, Tauba Auerbach -- who was in the Whit’s 2010 Biennial Exhibition -- has wrapped the site’s five construction trailers in photographs of marble, "transforming them into monolithic blanks for potential sculptures." The work is part of "Whitney on Site: New Commissions Downtown," a series that launched with a work by Guyton\Walker, and later features one by Barbara Kruger.
KEES VAN DONGEN RETRO IN THE NETHERLANDS
"All Eyes on Kees van Dongen," Sept. 18, 2010-Jan. 23, 2011, brings 80 works by the increasingly popular Dutch artist Kees van Dongen (1877-1968) to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Organized by guest curator Anita Hopmans, who is author of the accompanying catalogue, the show features paintings by the Paris-based artist -- a "society bohemian" known for his lavish studio parties -- beginning with his youthful trips to Egypt, Spain and Morocco and ending with his portraits of acrobats, femme fatales and nightlife scenes in Paris and Rotterdam. Van Dongen’s Fauvist painting Jeune Arabe (1910-11) sold at Sotheby’s New York for a record $13.8 million on Nov. 4, 2009.
JAN-ERIK VON LOWENADLER, 1936-2010
Jan-Erik von Löwenadler, 74, a Swedish art dealer and collector who specialized in the art of the 1980s and more recently had collected contemporary Chinese art, died of his own hand in Nice on July 24. A bon-vivant who spoke many languages and had clients in many countries, Löwenadler made a splash on the New York scene in 1981 with an exhibition by Dennis Oppenheim (that caught on fire) on the ground floor, and a display in the basement of Elvis and Marilyn portraits by a then-unshown artist named Keith Haring. He championed Rammellzee, Salome and Bernar Venet, among other artists, and was good friends with artists like Arman and Christo, and collectors like Elaine Dannheisser and Don and Mera Rubell. Löwenadler earned his fortune running language schools, notably in France, and operated Bonlow, his Greene Street gallery, in partnership with Jeanette Bonnier. A diabetic, Löwenadler had been depressed -- according to a Swedish press report, he had bought heavily at the Damien Hirst auction that took place in London on the same day as the 2008 Lehman Brothers bankruptcy -- and is said to have died from a double dose of insulin.