June 27, 2008

Seattle's Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs Announces Grant Winners

The Seattle mayor's Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs has announced the recipients of grants totaling $225,000, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The money will go to thirty-eight artists in visual, literary, film, and media arts. Twenty-eight of the thirty-eight artists funded are first-time recipients; and the awards range from $2,000 to $10,000, with an average award of $5,921. According to a press release, the projects will involve more than 150 artists in 101 events across the city. The program received a record 168 applicants, a 32 percent increase from the previous 2006 funding cycle. Winners in visual and media arts include Wanda Benvenutti, Drew Daly, Eric Eley, John Grade, Susie Lee, Perri Lynch, Mike Min, Heather Oaksen, Joanne Petrina, Nicholas Reynolds, Susan Robb, Alex Schweder, John Sutton, Lara Swimmer, Dan Webb, and Mark Zirpel. Details on their projects can be found here.

June 27, 2008

Art Gallery of Ontario and Boston Museum of Fine Arts Reach Fund-Raising Goals

The newly transformed Art Gallery of Ontario, designed by Frank Gehry, has reached its fund-raising goal five months before the opening of its major expansion in November, reports Bruce Demara in Toronto’s Star. That's allowed Art Gallery of Ontario officials to dream a little bigger by increasing the overall project budget by $22 million from its original $254 million, much of which will go into improved customer services. “It's a moment of real affirmation of our project. It happened a little earlier than we expected because of . . . the extraordinary support we got from many, many people in Toronto and elsewhere,” said AGO CEO Matthew Teitelbaum. Reaching the goal is particularly impressive in light of fierce competition for public and private dollars from other cultural institutions, such as the Royal Ontario Museum, that are also in the midst of major capital expansion campaigns. “What has happened is the number of cultural projects in Toronto coming together have really allowed people to imagine Toronto as a different kind of place,” Teitelbaum said.

In other news, Geoff Edgers reports in the Boston Globe that the Museum of Fine Arts has reached its $500 million fund-raising goal, the largest sum for a campaign by an arts institution in Boston history. At a board meeting announcing the milestone yesterday, the MFA disclosed key contributions it had received from major local figures in business and the arts. The West Wing will be named for Joyce and Edward Linde and their family in recognition of the more than $25 million they have given the museum for the campaign. Barbara and Ted Alfond, who have given more than $10 million, will have their names on the 150-seat auditorium in the MFA's new Art of the Americas Wing, which is set to open in 2010. The museum's ninety trustees gave $260 million of the total, with fifty-two giving $1 million or more, according to MFA deputy director Patricia Jacoby, who led the campaign. “This is a very important moment in the museum's history, and naturally I feel pleased and very excited,” MFA director Malcolm Rogers said by phone yesterday.

June 27, 2008

Venice Biennale Architecture Awards; Wenders Named Festival Jury President

The board of the Foundation La Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, was busy in its recent meeting. On the occasion of the eleventh International Architecture Exhibition, the group has awarded Golden Lion Awards for lifetime achievement to architect Frank Gehry and architectural historian James S. Ackerman. The former award comes with a citation from exhibition director Aaron Betsky, who stated, “Frank Gehry has transformed modern architecture. He has liberated it from the confines of the ‘box’ and the constraints of common building practices.” Ackerman’s award, specially created to acknowledge the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Andrea Palladio, acknowledges that he has written two of the most important monographs on the Renaissance figure. In other news, board president Baratta announced that the German film director Wim Wenders has been appointed jury director for the sixty-fifth International Film Festival.

June 26, 2008

John S. Stanley Appointed Deputy Director of Whitney Museum

Adam D. Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, today announced the appointment of John S. Stanley to the position of deputy director. Stanley will take up his duties in August. “At an exceptionally exciting time of growth and development at the Whitney, we are fortunate to gain the talents of John Stanley,” Weinberg stated. “His strong and wide-ranging management skills, combined with in-depth knowledge of every aspect of museum work, will be invaluable as we build the Whitney’s future.” Collaborating closely with Weinberg, Stanley will oversee exhibitions and collections management, marketing and communications, visitor services, publications, human resources, administration, the trustee office, and legal services. Stanley was previously employed by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he has served since 1995 as chief operating officer and deputy director for programs and services.

June 25, 2008

Elizabeth C. Baker Steps Down as Editor of Art in America

After more than three decades as the editor of Art in America magazine, Elizabeth C. Baker, a powerful voice in the contemporary art world, is stepping down, reports Randy Kennedy for the New York Times. The change comes shortly after a shake-up in the magazine’s ownership. Peter M. Brant, a newsprint magnate and art collector, took over Brant Publications, the magazine’s publisher, in January after buying out the 50 percent stake owned by his former wife, Sandra Brant. Brant appointed Fabien Baron and Glenn O’Brien as joint editorial directors of Art in America and the company’s two other publications, Interview and the Magazine Antiques. Baker, known as Betsy, took over the magazine in 1974. Under her leadership Art in America grew from a bimonthly publication with a circulation of around forty-five thousand to a monthly with a circulation of more than seventy-five thousand, featuring the writing of many influential critics. Marcia E. Vetrocq, who joined Art in America in 1998 as a senior editor, will take over as editor. Baker will become editor at large in charge of special projects, which will include book publishing and website development.

June 25, 2008

International News Digest

Privatization of Biennials

Privatization is becoming a trend in the realm of biennials. As Le Monde’s Harry Bellet reports, the biennials of contemporary art in the French cities of Havre and Rennes were both financed by private companies. For the second edition of Havre’s biennial, the casino group Partouche picked up the bill, while Rennes’s biennial was paid for by a group of companies run by Bruno Caron, the president of the agriculture and food conglomerate Norac. In both cities, the companies did not merely provide funding but were largely responsible for organizing the event. 

In the privately financed biennial, the France-Culture journalist Brice Couturier sees “a crisis of legitimation in public policy,” as well as “a denunciation of official art.” But Bellet notes that most of the artists “are far from being ignored by institutions.” Both Partouche and Caron have other perspectives. In the wake of a French law passed in August 2003, patronage has become “financially attractive,” according to Caron. As for Partouche, the same law gives little choice to casinos, which must contribute 0.5% of their gains to cultural activities—a clause that had led Partouche to earmark twenty-three million dollars per year for cultural projects.  

Partouche’s director, Ari Sebag, was happy to take over the organization of the Havre biennial, instead of simply footing the bill. “We don’t just want to pay,” Sebag told Le Monde, “but also to be recognized as cultural actors, since culture produces social links.” Caron was similarly pleased with the challenge of organizing the Rennes biennial. “I wonder about the place of business in society and the image that people have of work,” Caron told Le Monde. “I find it disappointing not to be able to reconcile work and desire. That's where the experiment of asking artists to question business came from.”

For his part, Sebag invited a friend, Jean-Marc Thévenet, to direct the Havre biennial. Caron initiated a call for projects that associate art and business. In the end, Raphaëlle Jeune's proposal was chosen for Rennes. “The idea was to immerse artists in businesses,” said Jeune, noting that the artist chose the company instead of the company choosing the artist. The only restriction was that the artist could not damage the company’s image. 

“Beuys-Komplex” to Stay in Krefeld

The five works that make up the “Beuys-Komplex” will remain in Krefeld's Kaiser-Wilhelm Museum. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, the complex is part of the private Lauffs collection, which was on long-term loan to the public museum until this spring, when Helga Lauffs decided to sell off most of the family’s collection. While some of the works were auctioned at Sotheby’s in May, some 155 more were acquired by the dealers David Zwirner and Iwan Wirth. As for the “Beuys-Komplex,” the regional government of North Rhine-Westaphalia paid Lauffs for two of the five works, who then offered them on permanent loan to the museum; Lauffs donated the other three works in the installation.

Susanne Gaensheimer Replaces Udo Kittelmann

Frankfurt’s Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) has a new director: Susanne Gaensheimer, who currently heads the Collection for International Contemporary Art in Munich’s Lenbachhaus. As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Niklas Maak reports, Gaensheimer will be taking over the reins of the MMK from Udo Kittelmann, who has been appointed head of Berlin's national galleries. According to Maak, the competition was stiff, with several international names rumored as possible candidates for the position, including the Serpentine Gallery’s Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Francesco Bonami, and the Pompidou’s Christine Macel. Gaensheimer, who wrote her thesis on the theme of “sexuality and destruction in Bruce Nauman's work,” can be expected to offer visitors “profound exhibition work” linking research, museology, and intellectual discourses.
For Maak, Gaensheimer’s nomination signals an end to the exclusive “men’s club” in German museum directorships. Yet the situation of Frankfurt’s other art institutions is far from stable. After Kittelmann announced his departure for Berlin, Chus Martínez announced that she would be leaving the city’s Kunstverein for Barcelona’s MACBA after a mere two-year stint. Daniel Birnbaum, head of the Städelschule and the Portikus, will be taking a leave of absence beginning in November in order to concentrate on curating the fifty-third Venice Biennale. Maak suggests that Birnbaum’s temporary leave of absence might be prolonged. “It’s no secret that powerful forces are pulling at him, forces that would like to see him someplace other than Frankfurt.”

Rome's Mayor Cancels Popular Museum Event

After calling for the demolition of the new Ara Pacis Museum designed by Richard Meier, Roman mayor Gianni Alemanno has caused yet another stir by canceling the annual “Long Night of the Museums” event in the city. As Der Standard reports, the event has taken place in Rome since 2003, attracting over 2.5 million visitors last year alone. “We have other priorities,” said Alemanno, a former neofascist. “Above all, traffic, salaries, and social politics.” The city is currently suffering a debt of $12.5 billion. Last week, the reigning Berlusconi regime had to make an advance payment of $780 million just to keep the city running. 

Rock Concerts as Performance Art?

It seems that the new billionaires in Russia, China, and India are not just buying art. Le Monde’s Stéphane Davet takes a look at the growing phenomenon of private concerts. Amy Winehouse’s two-million-dollar concert heralding the inauguration of Roman Abramovich’s new Garage gallery in Moscow earlier this month is part of a growing global trend. A few months earlier, Abramovich hired the Klaxons and CSS to celebrate his daughter’s sixteenth birthday in London. The prices for performances can vary: Deep Purple ($2.3 million), Shakira ($3.9 million), Elton John ($8.1 million) and the Rolling Stones ($9.3 million). Some artists—such as Lou Reed, who sang for five hundred employees and friends of the French financial group Carmignac last January at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées—refuse to reveal their fees. While transforming the rock concert into a unique performance—if not entirely a work of performance art—the trend represents the privatization of the once-public concert.

A Longer Performance

The town of Halberstadt, Germany, is preparing for yet another type of performance. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, John Cage’s composition Organ2/ASLSP will be played with a brand new note on July 5 at 3:33 PM inside the St. Burchardi church. As Cage aficionados will know, “ASLSP” stands for “As Slow as Possible.” The town of Halberstadt has taken the composer’s directions to heart. The piece, which began playing in 2001, will be moving on to its sixth note next month, with the aid of a sack of sand on the organ peddles. There’s plenty of time to catch some of the performance. The entire work will be completed in 639 years.

Jennifer Allen

June 25, 2008

Steve McQueen to Represent Britain at the 2009 Venice Biennale

Steve McQueen has been chosen as the artist who will represent Britain at the 2009 Venice Biennale, reports Charlotte Higgins for The Guardian. He is the first artist working primarily in film selected to represent Britain for the event. McQueen last month won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes for his debut feature, Hunger, about the death of Bobby Sands—the first prisoner to die in the Maze prison as a result of hunger strikes in 1981. Andrea Rose, head of visual arts at the British Council, said: “The jury felt that [film] is one of the leading strengths in British art, and that Steve McQueen’s innovative approach has made him one of the leading exponents. McQueen’s powerful and emotive work both challenges and inspires audiences to reflect upon the world in which we live.” McQueen was chosen by a selection committee including Adrian Searle, The Guardian’s art critic, and chaired by Andrea Rose.

June 25, 2008

Search Begins for New Art Center College of Design President

A search will begin to replace Richard Koshalek as president of the Art Center College of Design by the end of next year, reports the Pasadena Star News. The controversial master plan for the school’s future expansion will also be reevaluated, officials announced Tuesday. Board of trustees president John Puerner alluded to the “considerable input in the form of letters, petitions, and e-mails voicing concern and comment on various subjects” the board recently has received. In the weeks leading up to the board’s discussion Thursday on whether to extend Koshalek’s contract, students and alumni worldwide have conducted an online debate, much of it critical of the college’s $150 million expansion plans and the direction Koshalek was taking the highly regarded design school. Koshalek, president since 1999, will stay in the position for the eighteen months left on his contract, Puerner said. In a statement, Koshalek said, “Upon my departure, after ten years as president of the college, I look forward with the greatest optimism to developing a series of international ideas and initiatives that have been offered to me.” He listed “the conception, design, and construction of an innovative art and design college with digital library and virtual design museum, and the organization of a world design event, both in Asia—together with other projects that are regionally and internationally based.”

June 24, 2008

Upritchard and Millar to Represent New Zealand at 2009 Venice Biennale

London-based Christchurch sculptor Francis Upritchard and Auckland-based abstract painter Judy Millar will represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennale next year, reports Stuff.co.nz. The announcement comes three years after Creative New Zealand was criticized for choosing art collective et al to represent New Zealand at the 2005 Biennale, the world’s oldest and largest exposition of contemporary art. The decision became a public-relations disaster as the collective’s members remained anonymous and were reluctant to be interviewed. Creative NZ, which is partly taxpayer-funded, will spend $650,000 exhibiting the Upritchard and Millar works in Venice for six months—$150,000 more than it spent exhibiting et al’s work. Upritchard, who is in her early thirties and has exhibited in Europe and the United States, won the prestigious $50,000 Walters Award in 2006 for her installation of sculptures called Doomed Doomed Doomed. The New Plymouth–born artist grew up in Christchurch, attended Canterbury University’s Elam art school, and moved to England after she graduated in 1997. Creative NZ arts-council chairman Alastair Carruthers described Millar as “one of New Zealand’s most experienced abstractionists.”