January 21, 2011

Republicans Unveil Plan to Eliminate NEA and NEH

Mike Boehm reports in the Los Angeles Times that the Republican Study Committee, made up of about 165 GOP members of the House of Representatives, on Thursday announced a budget-cutting plan aimed at slashing federal spending, and it calls for the elimination of the nation’s two leading makers of government arts grants: the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Also on the chopping block is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The arts and humanities endowments each get $167.5 million a year; the broadcasting agency, which supports public radio and television, gets $445 million.

The Republicans claim that the ax would fall on the agencies as part of a bid to reduce the federal deficit. The bill, called the Spending Reduction Act of 2011, aims to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over ten years.

Federal arts and culture spending is currently about $1.6 billion a year, not counting construction budgets. The legislation does not call for cuts to the annual budgets for the Smithsonian Institution ($761.4 million), the Institute of Museum and Library Services ($282.3 million), the National Gallery of Art ($167 million) or the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (about $20 million).

In an interview Wednesday, before the GOP plan had come out, Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, argued that the government's existing arts-funding model in fact follows conservative budgetary principles: A small federal investment that's important to the health of the nonprofit arts sector helps sustain 5.7 million jobs and the $30 billion in annual returns to federal, state, and local coffers that those workers pay in taxes.

January 21, 2011

Harry Philbrick Named Director of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum

Harry Philbrick, former director of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn., was named director of the museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Stephan Salisbury.

Philbrick succeeds David R. Brigham, who was named president and chief executive of the overall academy, which includes a school and the museum. Donald Caldwell, academy board chair, lauded Philbrick’s experience. Officials said that attendance at the Aldrich tripled under Philbrick and that he headed a nine-million-dollar capital campaign, a major museum campus expansion, and innovative education programs. Philbrick, fifty-two, earned a master’s degree at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He begins at the academy March 1.

January 21, 2011

Haroon Mirza Wins Northern Art Prize

Haroon Mirza, an artist who scours junk shops and eBay for items to use in his exhibitions has scooped up about $25,000 as winner of the Northern Art Prize, according to the BBC.

Mirza’s winning installation combined second-hand record players and radios with sound art, projection, and a nineteenth-century painting. The award was established four years ago to showcase contemporary artists working in the north of England. Mirza, thirty-three, based in Sheffield, accepted the prize at Leeds Art Gallery.

Writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson, who was among the judges, said Mirza produces “original and immediate pieces that create strange and startling sounds through a combination of new and old technologies.”

The installation, Anthemoessa, takes its name from the island in Greek mythology where Sirens would lure unsuspecting sailors to their deaths with a beautiful song.

“It’s about calling, and the calling to one’s demise,” Mirza said. “It’s either a religious calling, which is a call to prayer, and then there’s Sirens calling, which is a call to death.”

The other shortlisted artists were Alec Finlay, Lubaina Himid, and David Jacques. Work by all four nominated artists is on display at Leeds Art Gallery until February 6.

January 21, 2011

East Village Site Likely for BMW Guggenheim Lab

It looks as if an empty lot at Thirty-three East First Street in the East Village will be the site of the inaugural BMW Guggenheim Lab, an initiative involving temporary structures that this German car manufacturer and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced in the fall, according to Carol Vogel in the New York Times.

Over the next six years, three labs will each travel to three locations. Besides New York, the first lab will go to a city in Europe and a city in Asia, spending two to three months in each place. At every stop the Guggenheim curators will invite leaders in the fields of architecture, art, science, design, technology, and education to participate in discussions—held in and around the structures—that will explore the complexities, realities, and problems of urban living.

If Community Board 3 approves the Manhattan site, which is owned by the city, it will house a two-story temporary structure designed by Atelier Bow-Wow, Tokyo-based architects. Architects for the other labs haven’t been announced yet. Members of a community board subcommittee met last week and had a positive reaction, Guggenheim officials said. A final vote is scheduled for Tuesday.

January 20, 2011

Jeff Koons Claims Rights to Balloon Dogs

Koons is now going after two businesses that his lawyers say have violated his intellectual property rights by producing and selling bookends that resemble his famous Balloon Dog sculpture, ten-foot-tall versions of which have been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Versailles and acquired by major art collectors, according to the New York Times. Koons’s sculpture also comes in a ten ½-inch version, comparable in size to the bookends.

In late December a lawyer for Koons, Peter D. Vogl of the firm Jones Day, sent cease-and-desist letters to Park Life, a San Francisco gallery and store that sells the bookends, and Imm-Living, a Toronto company that manufactures them.

Jamie Alexander, a co-owner of Park Life, and Rod Byrnes, a lawyer for Imm-Living, both rejected the idea that the bookends, which are made of painted resin and come in matte colors—unlike Koons’s reflective Balloon Dog—were a copy. The bookends are also slightly less bulbous than the Koons.

Alexander said that he had not responded to the cease-and-desist letter, and that he is still selling the bookends. “I’ve been talking to lawyers about possibly taking this case pro bono,” he said, adding that the lawyers “feel really strongly” that the accusation is baseless. Byrnes said that his client, a two-year-old company that makes design objects, wasn’t familiar with Koons’s sculpture until it received the letter from his lawyer. He said he had responded to Vogl and was waiting to hear back. “We’re more than willing to vigorously defend this,” he said. “We think they’re totally wrong.”

January 20, 2011

Milton Rogovin (1909–2011)

Milton Rogovin, an optometrist and persecuted leftist who took up photography as a way to champion the underprivileged and went on to become one of America’s most dedicated social documentarians, died on Tuesday at his home in Buffalo, according to Benjamin Genocchio in the New York Times. Rogovin was 101.

He chronicled the lives of the urban poor and working classes in Buffalo, Appalachia, and elsewhere for more than fifty years. Genocchio writes that Rogovin’s direct photographic style in stark black and white evokes the socially minded work that Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Gordon Parks produced for the Farm Security Administration during the Depression. Today his entire archive resides in the Library of Congress.

Rogovin came to wide notice in 1962 after documenting storefront church services on Buffalo’s poor and predominantly African-American East Side. The images were published in Aperture magazine with an introduction by W. E. B. Du Bois, who described them as “astonishingly human and appealing.”

In a 1976 review of a Rogovin show of photographs from Buffalo at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan, the critic Hilton Kramer wrote of Rogovin in the New York Times: “He sees something else in the life of this neighborhood—ordinary pleasures and pastimes, relaxation, warmth of feeling, and the fundamentals of social connection. He takes his pictures from the inside, so to speak, concentrating on family life, neighborhood business, celebrations, romance, recreation, and the particulars of individuals’ existence.”

His photographs were published in several books and widely exhibited; a show of his work is currently on view at the Gage Gallery in Chicago. Many are in the collections of museums, including the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

January 20, 2011

Are Donald Judd Pieces Being Wrongly Handled?

A Donald Judd symposium spearheaded by one of the artist’s long time fabricators, Peter Ballantine, is set to take place in New York and Berlin in 2011. The talk is aimed at averting a “potential crisis,” explained Ballantine, over what he sees as a growing list of misconceptions connected to the artist’s fabrication and conservation techniques, according to Marisa Mazria Katz in the Art Newspaper. The two conferences come on the heels of an April 2010 gathering in Portland, Oregon, where Ballantine invited the likes of Yale University School of Art dean, Robert Storr, and Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki, for his “Donald Judd: Delegated Fabrication: History, Practices, Issues, and Implications” talk held in conjunction with an exhibition of the artist’s work at the University of Oregon.

The idea was spurred by a curatorial decision to put a 1964 plywood floor piece on a pedestal at the Tate Modern’s 2004 Donald Judd retrospective. While Ballantine acknowledges the decision to raise the piece was likely a response to the wishes of its lender, still, it “showed how things can go wrong when the artist is not there to defend or explain himself.”

At the top of his list of grievances with the way Judd is handled today is not just the curatorial desire to put the artist’s work on pedestals, but also how damage to his pieces is being handled by both museum and privately commissioned restorers. “All of these things have to be discussed and argued over,” he said. “[These conferences] will be about asking if there are more authentic or less authentic ways to deal with Judd.” For more, click here.

January 20, 2011

Charles Ryskamp Bequeaths Work to Frick and Morgan

Carol Vogel reports in the New York Times that Charles Ryskamp, who passed away earlier last year, has left significant drawings to the Frick and the Morgan, now called the Morgan Library & Museum. He also gave the Metropolitan Museum of Art a seventeenth-century Italian drawing.

The rest of his estate—paintings, drawings, furnishings, and objects—is being auctioned at Sotheby’s on January 25, when it is expected to bring about one million dollars. The proceeds will primarily benefit Princeton University, where Ryskamp was a professor.

For the Morgan in particular Ryskamp’s gift is large—some one hundred drawings and prints, a dozen illustrated books, and three historical manuscripts—and fills some gaps. “The real contribution is establishing a new area of strength, the Danish school”—through works by artists like Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, and Christen Kobke—“and for me that’s the real headline,” said William M. Griswold, director of the Morgan. The gift also extends the Morgan’s holdings of nineteenth-century German artists with works by Caspar David Friedrich and Adolph Menzel.

For the Frick his will stipulated that officials could choose any ten drawings from his collection. “Susan Galassi, Colin Bailey, and I went through boxes and boxes of drawings,” said Anne L. Poulet, the Frick’s director, referring to that institution’s senior and chief curators. They chose, among others, a pen-and-ink character study by Tiepolo that differed from other drawings by him already in the collection, and a Redouté watercolor of plums chosen for its sheer beauty and because the Frick had no works by that botanical artist.

To showcase the donated works the Frick is planning a small exhibition in its Cabinet Gallery, a downstairs space for works on paper established by Ryskamp when he was director. It will be held in spring 2012.

For Ryskamp’s full obituary, click here.

January 19, 2011

Foundation for Contemporary Arts Announces 2011 Artist Grants

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts has announced the recipients of its 2011 Grants to Artists program. Fourteen unrestricted grants of $25,000 each (a total of $350,000), are to be awarded to artists in the United States and abroad. The grantees are selected by the directors of the foundation and noted members of the arts community from confidential nominations submitted by artists and arts professionals.

The 2011 recipients are:


Deborah Hay, Austin, TX
Jodi Melnick, Brooklyn, NY
David Neumann, Brooklyn, NY


Kevin Drumm, Chicago, IL
Steve Roden, Pasadena, CA
Marina Rosenfeld, New York, NY
Michael Webster, Los Angeles, CA


Katie Peterson, Cambridge, MA


Ryan McNamara, Brooklyn, NY
Alix Pearlstein, New York, NY


Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Brussels, Belgium
Curtis Mitchell, New York, NY
Dona Nelson, Lansdale, PA
Raha Raissnia, Brooklyn, NY