YES MEN TAKE MANHATTAN, AGAIN
Yesterday, the art pranksters known as the Yes Men struck again, bringing together a team of some 2,000 volunteers to handing out a meticulous, 32-page fake version of the New York Post on street corners throughout New York City.
The duo spearheaded a similar stunt last November, distributing a progressive parody of the New York Times [see "Oh Yes They Did!," Nov. 20, 2008]. That performance proved so popular that Greenpeace invited the Yes Men to distribute a fake, climate-change-themed version of the International Herald Tribune in Brussels this June, as world leaders met to discuss the environmental crisis.
Yesterday’s project carried on in the same vein, with the fake Post blaring headlines about the need for quick action to save the planet from global warming. The front-page headline, "WE’RE SCREWED," reflects on data that suggests dire consequences for those living on the island of Manhattan as a result of climate change. The intervention was timed to coincide with the opening of the United Nations’ "Climate Summit," today.
The edition of 1,000,000 copies of the fake Post was underwritten by an anonymous donor. The full version -- complete with a spoof, eco-themed version of "Page Six" -- is viewable online at www.nypost-se.com. The Yes Men, incidentally, are also debuting a new film, The Yes Men Fix the World, at Film Forum on Oct. 7, 2009.
One hiccup in yesterday’s stunt occurred when volunteers attempted to pass out the fake Post at the News Corp headquarters at 1211 Avenue of the Americas. According to photographer Jason Nicholas, who witnessed the incident, police detained three activists distributing papers outside of the building. The newspapers were reportedly seized and taken inside Post headquarters. "It seemed [the police] were acting in concert with building security because I noticed them talking before and after," Nicholas told the Daily Finance.
For the most part, however, passing out the paper went uneventfully. In addition to spreading the word about the scourge of climate change, volunteers also got some first-hand experience about the plight of the vendors who sell the Post every day. "The funniest part of handing out papers at the crack of dawn this morning was when people would turn up their noses and say, ‘I wouldn't wipe my ass with that’ or ‘That paper is a racist piece of crap,’" said filmmaker Astra Taylor, who also edited and narrated the short documentary about the morning’s events, viewable on the fake Post’s website.
"ART TAX" IN PENNSYLVANIA?
Pennsylvania cultural leaders were "blindsided" by a budget deal on Friday, Sept. 19, 2009, that involved extending the six-percent state sales tax to cultural venues, including museums. "We heard nothing about this until late last night. It must have been a very last-minute deal," Peggy Amsterdam, head of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday.
The state hopes to generate $100 million from the new "amusement tax," which would supposedly go into a fund to be earmarked for cultural organizations, and replace funding that previously came out of the state’s general revenues. Movies and sporting events are exempt from the new tax. According to a Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance press release, a coalition of affected groups has requested to meet with governor Ed Rendell and key state legislators to protest the move.
ARTS FUNDING BACK IN MIAMI BUDGET
The plan by Miami mayor Carlos Alvarez to chop $11 million from cultural funding, as part of attempts to fill a $444 million budget deficit, has been dropped in the face of widespread public pressure. Organizations like the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami Art Museum and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens will receive the same funding as last year, with the county shifting money to them from taxes meant for the operation of the South Dade Performing Arts Center. "Community-based organizations" -- which include some arts nonprofits, and which had faced an almost total cut-off -- also got 70 percent of their funding. To make up the deficit, however, Miami-Dade is putting through 1,000 layoffs, instituting $106 million in wage cuts for city workers and making smaller contributions to some social services.
"ITALICS" AT CHICAGO MCA
Globe-trotting supercurator Francesco Bonami’s controversial survey of contemporary Italian art -- the show was roundly derided in Italy when it appeared at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2008 -- comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago this fall. "Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution 1968-2008," Nov. 14, 2009-Feb. 14, 2010, presents more than 80 Italian artists, ranging from Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Mario Merz and Alighiero Boetti through Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi to a younger generation that includes Maurizio Cattelan, Stefano Arienti, Paola Pivi, Giuseppe Gabellone and Luisa Lambri.
One featured work is Cattelan’s All (2008), white marble sculptures of nine shrouded corpses, ostensibly symbols of the ghosts of the Italian past. Further artists in the show are Carla Accardi, Enrico Baj, Gabriele Basilico, Letizia Battaglia, Mario Ceroli, Domenico Gnoli, Marisa Merz, Bruno Munari, Pino Pascali, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mimmo Rotella, Ettore Sottsass, Patrick Tuttofuoco and still others. The show is the first survey of contemporary Italian art since "Italian Metamorphosis, 1943-1967" at the Guggenheim Museum in 1994.
J.W. WATERHOUSE AT MMFA
The romantic visions of the Pre-Raphaelites. The classical myths and poems penned by Homer and Ovid, Keats and Tennyson. And femmes fatales including Circe, Cleopatra, Miranda and Ophelia. If this is your stuff, then pay attention: "J.W. Waterhouse: Garden of Enchantment" opens at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Oct. 2, 2009-Feb. 7, 2010, featuring approximately 50 paintings in a show organized by the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts and the MMFA. The show also includes 30 studies and photographs and mementos -- and hosts the Canadian premiere of Out of Our Minds (OOOM), a film by rock bassist Melissa Auf der Maur and filmmaker Tony Stone inspired by a Waterhouse painting (for a trailer of this last, see http://xmadmx.com).
JOHNSON FOUNDATION RAFFLE IN L.A.
The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts in Los Angeles, whose annual Johnson Prize recognizes an "early career" African American artist with a $25,000 award, holds its annual fundraising gala on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009. Among the artists who have donated artworks for the event are Edgar Arceneaux, Sam Durant, Charles Gaines, Jennie C. Jones, Glenn Ligon, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Kori Newkirk, Catherine Opie, Kara Walker and Andrea Zittel. The benefit, which funds the annual Johnson prize, takes place at Gemini G.E.L. at 8365 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, and features cocktails and catering by Chaya Brasserie. Tickets begin at $100. For more info, see www.whjohnsongrant.org.
2009 "GENIUS" AWARDS
Yes, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation persists in giving out the so-called "genius" awards each year, despite the fact that almost everyone agrees that the winners, as meritorious as they may be, are hardly geniuses on the level of, say, one’s own self. This year’s winners, who receive $500,000 paid over a five-year period, include a few of an artistic stripe. Most notable among them is L.A.-based mixed-media artist Mark Bradford, recently known for the ambitious "Ark" he created for last year’s Prospect 1: New Orleans biennale (Bradford is represented in New York by Sikkema Jenkins & Co.) Also getting the nod is the 69-year-old, much-appreciated realist painter Rackstraw Downes, who shows at Betty Cuningham Gallery, and San Francisco digital artist Camille Utterback, who has been seen in the exhibition "Living Inside the Grid" at the New Museum in 2003, among other places.
Other artsy types making the cut are Timothy Barrett, a prof at the University of Iowa, described as a "papermaker" who is "reinvigorating the art of hand-papermaking," and filmmaker James Longley, founder of Seattle’s Daylight Factory, known for films and documentary photos about the Middle East.
Info about all the winners, complete with nifty high-res pictures and videos of the "Geniuses" talking talking about their work, is available at the MacArthur Foundation website