October 5, 2008

Simon Hantaï (1922–2008)

Simon Hantaï, a famously reclusive French painter whose work explores ideas of absence and silence—and who took those ideas so seriously that he disappeared completely from view for fifteen very productive years—died on September 11 at his home in Paris, reports Margalit Fox in the New York Times, with additional reporting from Le Figaro in Paris. Born in Hungary, Hantaï was a major figure in European art from the 1950s onward. He was known in particular for abstract, often huge canvases with bold, saturated color punctuated by unfilled areas of pure white. Their singular appearance resulted from a method of folding and tying the canvas before applying paint, a process known as pliage, which Hantaï developed in the early 1960s. He was also known for his long, self-imposed retreat from the public arena in the 1980s and ’90s. In 1999, Art in America described this absence as stemming from “a streak of ethical obstinacy virtually unparalleled in contemporary art.” Hantaï’s work is in the permanent collections of the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and other major European museums. His work is less well known in the United States, though it is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, among others. In 1982, Hantaï represented France at the Venice Biennale. Later that year, he withdrew from view, in what he described as a reaction against the rampant commercialization of art and the state’s unwelcome involvement in the making of art. Retreating to his home in Paris, he rarely left the house and refused requests to exhibit his paintings. But over the next decade and a half, Hantaï quietly produced what many critics believe to be his finest work.

October 3, 2008

Adjaye Chosen to Design Two Libraries; Florida University Aims to Acquire Museum

Architect David Adjaye has been selected to design replacement buildings for two of the most distressed branches of the public library system in Washington, DC, reports the Washington Post. Adjaye, a Tanzanian-born designer who has created homes for such celebrities as Ewan McGregor, will design modern facilities to replace the Washington Highlands Library and the Francis A. Gregory Library. The choice of Adjaye came through a competitive process involving library officials and neighborhood representatives.

Last year, Adjaye finished the new Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, his first major public project in the United States. But in London, he is something of celebrity, having built controversial and innovative homes, often with severe, minimalist faces, for some of the city's most successful artists and actors. His work includes the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, an adaptation of a nineteenth-century railway terminal into a high-tech exhibition hall and museum, dramatically framed by a stand-alone aluminum box, thrusting the whole complex into the space age. But it was his Idea Stores, glamorous neighborhood libraries that include a wide array of community functions, that led to his selection for this project, during an open competition that began in May. Adjaye's firm was selected after a July 19 presentation by the three finalists (out of seventeen design teams).

In other news from the Jacksonville Business Journal, the University of North Florida's president, John Delaney, has the blessing of the institution’s board of governors to pursue the acquisition of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville. Delaney made his pitch to the board Thursday afternoon, saying it would give the university a downtown presence and be an alternative to a gallery the school was considering for its south-side campus. Delaney said the museum's director, Deborah Broder, approached UNF several months ago. MoCA is in a sixty-thousand-square-foot city-owned building on Hemming Plaza that opened in 2003. Its collection is valued at ten million dollars, and its endowment at about six hundred thousand dollars. But its debts are larger than its endowment and it has struggled to attract visitors. The museum had earlier approached and was rebuffed by the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. If UNF does acquire MoCA, Delaney told the board, it would be wholly owned by the university, which would try to maintain the museum’s nonprofit status. MOCA’s board would remain in place, with the possible addition of representation from the school, and the museum’s director would report to the board and university.

October 2, 2008

Catherine David to Curate 2009 Lyon Biennial

The Lyon Biennial has announced the selection of Catherine David as curator for the 2009 edition. David directed Documenta 10 in Kassel in 1994–97 and later the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam in 2002–2004. After studying linguistics and the history of art, she became a curator at the Centre Pompidou, before moving to the Jeu de Paume. Since Documenta 10, she has been organizing exhibitions, encounters, and transcultural publishing ventures, with an emphasis on establishing distinctive contexts for interchange with the public in respect of ideas, creativity, and artistic processes. Since 1998, she has been in charge of the “Représentations Arabes Contemporaines” project, which takes the form of exhibitions, seminars, and publications in various European cities. The project fosters contact between the Arab world and the art scene in order to effect changes of attitudes on both sides. In 2005–2006, David was guest researcher at the prestigious Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, where she continued her work on the Arab world. During this time, she also organized the monographic exhibition devoted to Bahman Jalali at the Fundació Tàpies in Barcelona and the interdisciplinary event “Di/Visions: Culture and Politics of the Middle East” at the World Culture Centre in Berlin. In spring 2008, she received the Bard College Award for Curatorial Excellence. She is currently chief curator at the Direction des Musées de France (French Museum Board). The last Lyon Biennial, in 2007, included fifty curators from all over the world and explored the new temporality that marks the societies of our time. According to the statement of artistic director Thierry Raspail in e-flux, the 2009 edition is “focused on history . . . and all the diversity and density of its recent manifestations.”

October 1, 2008

New Fund for New Museum; Deutsche Bank's Permanent Loan to Städel

Lisa Phillips, the director of the New Museum in New York, announced today the formation of the Stuart Regen Visionaries Fund, established to support a new series of public lectures and presentations by cultural visionaries. Expected to begin in the spring of 2009, the series will focus on work in the fields of art, architecture, design, and related disciplines of contemporary culture, to promote the innovations shaping intellectual life and defining the future now. The Stuart Regen Visionaries Fund has been established with a major gift from Barbara Gladstone, in honor of her son.

Stuart Regen, who died ten years ago at the age of thirty-nine, was founder of the leading Los Angeles gallery Regen Projects and the first to champion and exhibit work by artists such as Lari Pittman, Charles Ray, Raymond Pettibon, Matthew Barney, and Catherine Opie. “Stuart was a close friend and colleague, who was widely respected for his forward vision and admired for his entrepreneurship,” commented Phillips. “This new program at the New Museum honors his legacy of risk taking and his unique talent, boundless curiosity, and passion for ideas.” Said Gladstone, “The purpose of the series is a reflection of Stuart's interest in the quality and power of conversation, as well as his dedication to new ideas. It also addresses his longtime friendships with Lisa Phillips and Richard Flood.”

In other news, Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, permanently loaned six hundred works by artists including Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, and Sigmar Polke to Frankfurt's Städel Museum, reports Bloomberg’s Catherine Hickley. Other artists whose works are included in the permanent loan are Georg Baselitz, Martin Kippenberger, Markus Lüpertz, Günther Förg, and Günther Uecker. The bank has one of the world's biggest corporate art collections, with more than fifty-three thousand works. The loan comprises 370 graphic works, 161 works on paper, and sixty paintings and sculptures. “This trove from the Deutsche Bank collection allows the Städel to boost its stock of top-quality postwar art and live up to its task of showing visitors important developments in art history,” said Max Hollein, director of the museum. The loan to the Städel will eventually be exhibited in the museum's planned extension, scheduled for completion by early 2011. Some of the works will be on public display at the Städel from October 2 to November 9.

October 1, 2008

Five Museums Honored; Curry Stone Design Prize Awarded

The Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Florida, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York are two of five museums that, along with five libraries, will be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in an October 7 ceremony at the White House, reports the Palm Beach Post. The medal, which comes with ten thousand dollars, is given annually to ten institutions by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent government agency and the primary source of federal support for the country's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. “These ten museums and libraries have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make a real difference in their communities,” institute director Anne Radice said. “It's a huge honor,” Norton director Christina Orr-Cahall said. “I hope the community looks at this as an acknowledgment of its importance to us and our importance to it.” Typically, legislators nominate institutions, although anyone can do it, said Jeannine Mjoseth, the institute's public-affairs officer. All types of museums and public and private nonprofit libraries in the United States and its territories are eligible. Seventy-nine museums and thirty-two libraries were nominated.

In other news, according to Artinfo, the Oregon-based Curry Stone Foundation has awarded its design prize to Luyunda Mpahlwa and Mpethi Morojele of the South African firm MMA Architects in recognition of their design for upgrading low-income housing in a Cape Town shantytown. The hundred-thousand-dollar Curry Stone Design prize is awarded annually to an individual or group who has developed a specific design solution to target various environmental issues. The winning plan should have the potential to create beneficial change in the areas of clean water, clean air, clean food, shelter, community health, or peace. Other finalists for the prize this year included Shawn Frayne, Wes Janz, Marjetica Potrc, and Antonio Scarponi.

October 1, 2008

International News Digest

GALLERIES FEELING THE SQUEEZE?

The Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Jörg Häntzschel looks at the impact of the bank crash on the art market in New York. Although he suspects that galleries and auction houses will be hit hard, no one has yet issued a statement about the financial crisis. “No comment from the three big auction houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips de Pury,” writes Häntzschel. The city’s most important galleries—Gagosian, Zwirner & Wirth, Marian Goodman, Deitch Projects, and Gladstone—have also remained silent. “And who wants to talk down a nervous market with bad news? No one could say anything about the Frieze Art Fair in London in October, about the auctions at the beginning of November. Only a director from Yvon Lambert was willing to provide information: ‘The last two weeks have been noticeably quiet.’” Although a few collectors here and there have apparently taken their names off waiting lists, there is no trace of panic among New York dealers, who can still choose among buyers.

“What distinguishes this crisis from others is the new internationalism of the market,” writes Häntzschel. “When New York investment bankers drop out, Moscow oil barons jump in. There are fewer risks for artists whose works have obtained spectacular prices in the last years. . . . But things could turn out to become slightly tougher for younger names.”

WHITHER LEHMAN?

In his article, Jörg Häntzschel also takes a look at the impact of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. For its November auctions, Christie’s has announced the sale of works by Barnett Newman, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and others from “an important private collection.” The seller is apparently Kathy Fuld, a trustee at MoMA and the partner of Lehman CEO Richard Fuld. Häntzschel wonders whether the auction might just be “a panic sale”: “Someone saves what is to be saved before the prices crash through the floor.” However plausible, the assumption is likely false, since the deal between Fuld and Christie’s was sealed months ago, before Lehman Brothers’ insolvency.

For Häntzschel, it is clear that the crisis will hurt the New York art market, but just how is anyone’s guess. Again citing the case of Lehman Brothers, Häntzschel notes that the firm’s arts funding is done through a separate entity called the Lehman Foundation. According to Lehman spokesperson Brian Finnegan, the Lehman Foundation is not affected by the firm’s bankruptcy. “We have enough means to fulfill our contracts,” Finnegan told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Häntzschel wonders how funding promises can be kept when the bank is being dismantled and sold. Finnegan had no comment.

Also unclear is the fate of the Lehman art collection, which includes thirty-five hundred international contemporary works. That figure includes nine hundred works—from Marlene Dumas to Damien Hirst—acquired through a takeover of the Neuberger investment firm. A paragraph in the acquisition contract between London’s Barclay’s Bank and Lehman calls for Barclay’s to keep on loan for one year the art from its part of Lehman. After the year, Barclay’s will have the option to sell part of the art collection. “What then?” wonders Häntzschel.

BANKSY FAILS TO SHINE

A recent auction of works by the guerrilla street artist Banksy has failed to fulfill its great expectations. As BBC News reports, 80 percent of the lots—including works by Bansky and Sam Taylor-Wood—went unsold at the Lyon & Turnbull auction. Banksy’s Fungle Junk—a mural painted on the side of a van—was withdrawn from the sale after bidding reached only half of the $270,000 estimate. Lyon & Turnbull blamed not only the financial crisis but also the artist’s refusal to authenticate the works.

TALE OF TWO PORTRAITS

Kate Moss—whose portrait by Lucian Freud sold for close to seven million dollars at an auction in 2005—is not faring so well with her own work. As Agence France-Press reports, the Lyon & Turnbull auction in London also featured a self-portrait of the British model made with lipstick. Though the work did not sell during the auction, it was purchased afterward for sixty thousand dollars by an unidentified buyer. Lyon & Turnbull had estimated the self-portrait at seventy-one thousand dollars. The work is not signed but bears a lipstick imprint of Moss’s mouth. The original owner was musician Pete Doherty, who added his own blood to the canvas along with the phrase WHO NEEDS BLOOD WHEN YOU HAVE LIPSTICK? Doherty fared even worse: His self-portrait, estimated at seventeen thousand dollars, failed to sell—either before or after.

ANOTHER CLASH BETWEEN ART AND FINANCE

There is another financial scandal behind the currently strained art relations between Liechtenstein and Germany. As Le Monde’s Lorraine Rossignol reports, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein has refused to lend works from his private collection to Germany.

Last year, it was discovered that a host of wealthy Germans had been transferring their money to the Liechtenstein principality in order to evade taxes at home. While the revelation comes as no surprise, what’s troubling to His Highness is the way in which the information was obtained. According to Rossignol, German's secret service paid between $5.6 million and $7 million to get the information from a former employee of the LGT Bank, which belongs to the royal family.

Prince Hans-Adam II has interpreted the move as an aggression, reminiscent of earlier—more bellicose—relations between the two countries. “The principality has already survived three German Reichs and hopes to survive a fourth,” wrote the prince in a curt letter to Berlin’s Jewish Museum, in which he requested the return of an artwork on loan to the museum. “The collections of the prince will refrain from consenting to loans to Germany as long as this country’s application of fundamental juridical principles will appear questionable to Liechtenstein,” wrote the prince.

Rossignol recalls that the disagreement has yet another history: the Nazi’s despoilment of the royal Liechtenstein collection during World War II. “From that, it can be understood that Liechtenstein worries about not seeing its works restituted by the so-called Fourth Reich,” writes Rossignol, who seems to suggest that the works might well be confiscated as a penalty for offering German taxpayers a tax-free haven. Berlin’s Jewish Museum received yet another refusal from the principality on a loan for its current exhibition: “Pillage and Restitution: Jewish Culture from 1933 to the Present.”

Jennifer Allen

September 30, 2008

Miami Art Museum Appoints Roger M. Buergel Chief Curator

The Miami Art Museum—in the midst of building a new $220 million home in Bicentennial Park—has announced the hiring of Roger M. Buergel as chief curator and deputy director of programs, according to the Miami Herald. Buergel is an independent curator of museum exhibitions, a past professor of art history at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts, and a scholar of visual theory who has lectured at the University of Lüneburg, both in Germany. He also served as artistic director of Documenta 12, covered by Artforum.com here. Buergel will begin his job in October and will be charged with developing the museum’s educational programs and building the museum's permanent collection of paintings, photography, sculpture, and other art.

September 30, 2008

Pinchuk Names New Director; Art Directors Club Names New President

Steel billionaire Victor Pinchuk has named Eckhard Schneider director of the Pinchuk Center, the magnate’s Kiev art museum. Bloomberg’s John Varoli reports that Schneider, a former director of the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, replaces Dmitri Logvin, who is now the museum’s executive director. Pinchuk said he headhunted Schneider, impressed by the shows of contemporary art Schneider curated in Bregenz, a town in the Alps where Austria, Germany, and Switzerland meet. The Pinchuk Center displays works owned by the steel magnate and those from other private collections. The latest show has twenty-four photos by Gursky and eighteen video works loaned by Julia Stoschek. Bloomberg also discusses Pinchuk’s recent Hirst acquisitions here.

In other news, Doug Jaeger, thirty-three years old, has been named president of the Art Directors Club in New York. He succeeds Paul Lavoie, chairman and chief creative officer at TAXI. The Art Directors Club, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit organization that connects creative visual-communications professionals from around the world. The ADC has also added four new directors to its board, elevated two directors to officers, and promoted ADC executive director Ami Brophy to the role of CEO.

September 29, 2008

LACMA to Announce $45 Million Gift; Singapore Pledges $5 Million to National Art

According to Edward Wyatt in the New York Times, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will announce today that it has received a forty-five-million-dollar cash gift and the promise of ten million dollars in artworks from Lynda and Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills couple who are longtime supporters of the museum. The cash gift, twenty-five million dollars of which had previously been disclosed, will be used to finance a new forty-five-thousand-square-foot exhibition pavilion designed by Renzo Piano. It will be immediately behind the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which opened in February on the museum’s campus. Construction of the building, which is intended to house special exhibitions and will bear the Resnicks’ name, began earlier this year and is expected to be completed in 2010. The gift comes at an uncertain time for the art world generally and for the museum, which has been moving quickly to overhaul itself since Michael Govan, who formerly led the Dia Art Foundation in New York, took over as museum director in the spring of 2006. The museum has already raised the $201 million needed for the first phase of the rebuilding plan.

In other news, Adam Majendie reports for Bloomberg that Singapore plans to spend $5.6 million over the next five years to help fund commercial cultural projects such as a heritage television station and a private museum. The National Heritage Board, which runs the city-state’s museums, will pay half the cost of an approved project up to a maximum grant of seventy thousand dollars, the government agency said in a press release. The program includes plans to start an Internet-based heritage TV station that will produce ten documentaries on local artists. The program “aims to be the tipping point for individuals and companies to embrace heritage as a business idea,” said Michael Koh, the board’s chief executive officer, in the release. Singapore has spent more than seven hundred thousand dollars on building or refurbishing museums and arts venues in the past decade as part of a plan to draw tourists and develop a thriving arts and culture industry.