August 7, 2009

US Senate Confirms Rocco Landesman as NEA Head

Rocco Landesman, the head of Broadway’s Jujamcyn Theaters, has been approved by the Senate to assume the top position at the National Endowment for the Arts, reports David Ng for the Los Angeles Times. The Senate also unanimously confirmed Jim Leach to head the National Endowment for the Humanities. An imposing figure on the New York theater scene, Landesman was seen by many as an unusual but welcome choice by the Obama administration to head the troubled NEA, which has been reeling from years of budget cuts and accusations of irrelevance. On Broadway, the sixty-two-year-old Landesman has had a hand in producing such high-profile shows as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Mel Brooks’s The Producers. His nomination to the NEA post was announced in May.

Landesman, who is expected to begin his new job shortly, will take over from Patrice Walker Powell, who has served as interim chairwoman since February. Dana Gioia, a poet, stepped down as NEA chief at the beginning of the year. In an interview with the New York Times’s Robin Pogrebin, Landesman shows little patience for the disdain with which some politicians still seem to view the endowment. He was particularly angered, he said, by parts of the debate over whether to include fifty million dollars for the agency in the federal stimulus bill, citing the comment by Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, on CNBC’s Squawk Box in February, that arts money did not belong in the bill. That kind of thinking suggests that “artists don’t have kids to send to college,” Landesman said, “or food to put on the table, or medical bills to pay.”

In American politics generally, he added, “the arts are a little bit of a target. The subtext is that it is elitist, left wing, maybe even a little gay.”

August 7, 2009

Bruce Nauman’s Skywriting Project Takes Off in Pasadena

Artist Bruce Nauman, fresh off his Golden Lion win at this year’s Venice Biennale, has lined up his next local project, reports David Ng for the Los Angeles Times. On September 12, between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM, Nauman will transform the skies over Pasadena, California, in a project titled Untitled (Leave the Land Alone), 1969/2009. Viewers can expect to see the words LEAVE THE LAND ALONE written in the sky, with the best viewing spots at La Loma Bridge, Colorado Street Bridge, and Brookside Park, according to organizers.

Nauman had apparently planned a similar project in 1969 but shelved it for unknown reasons. Now resurrected forty years later, the project is being held in conjunction with “Installations Inside/Out” at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts, running from September 20 to December 31. It will mark Nauman’s first solo institutional project in the LA area since 1994, according to the Armory. No words yet on whether Nauman will be in the plane that will perform the skywriting.

August 7, 2009

Otto Dix House to Become Part of Kunstmuseum Stuttgart

The house where the artist Otto Dix spent his final years is to be renovated and become part of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, in southern Germany, report Clemens Bomsdorf and Rita Pokorny for the Art Newspaper. “We are now in the final stage of the process to establish the Stiftung Otto Dix Haus, which will take over the building from the Dix heirs. The plan is to reopen it as a museum in 2010,” said Daniel Spanke, curator at Kunstmuseum Stuttgart.

The house, designed for Dix by the architect Arno Schlecher, is situated in the village of Gaienhofen-Hemmenhofen on the Höri peninsula at Lake Constance, south of Stuttgart. The artist, who is best known for his portraits of notable figures in prewar Germany and who was regarded as a “degenerate artist” by the Nazis, moved to Hemmenhofen in 1936, where he lived until his death in 1969. Dix had mixed feelings about the idyllic location, once stating that it was “so beautiful that you have to vomit.” In 1991, the house was opened to the public, but a lack of funding meant that the building gradually fell into a state of decay.

The estate will be run by the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and will show temporary exhibitions of Dix’s works. An annual scholarship will be awarded to a young researcher to organize the shows. In addition, there will be a permanent exhibition showing the home during the period when the artist lived there with his family. The foundation has already raised more than $2.1 million: the City of Stuttgart has given $357,000 and there have been significant contributions from the municipalities of Gaienhofen and Konstanz, as well as from private sponsors. Bettina Pfefferkorn, Dix’s grandchild, has also supported the project by selling the house to the foundation at 50 percent less than its estimated market value.

August 7, 2009

MoMA Receives Richard Avedon Gift

The Museum of Modern Art announced two separate photography acquisitions this week: thirty-nine images by Richard Avedon and a trove of nearly sixty nineteenth-century photographs, reports Carol Vogel for the New York Times.

The Avedon photographs––a part purchase and part gift from the photographer’s foundation, which was in place well before his death in 2004––span nearly his entire career. There are well-known portraits of personalities like Marilyn Monroe and Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Twiggy. There are also nine photographs, first shown at MoMA in 1974 and taken from 1969 to 1973, that chronicled Avedon’s father, Jacob Israel Avedon, in declining health. “We’ve had it on our list for a long time to improve our Avedon photographs,” said Peter Galassi, chief curator of photography at the museum.

The second acquisition is a bequest from Suzanne Winsberg, a collector who lived in New York and Paris and who died last year. During the 1970s, as the market for photography began to take off in Paris, Winsberg began putting together a collection of nineteenth-century images including six salted-paper prints by Nadar and views of the forest of Fontainebleau by Le Gray.

August 6, 2009

Boston’s Artadia Awards Announced

The Fund for Art and Dialogue has announced the Artadia Awards 2009 Boston. Three jurors—Peter Eleey (visual-arts curator, Walker Art Center), Rita Gonzalez (assistant curator of contemporary art, LACMA), and Randi Hopkins (associate curator, ICA Boston)—conducted studio visits with fifteen short-listed artists drawn from nearly six hundred applicants in the metro Boston area. This is Artadia’s second cycle in Boston following the inaugural awards cycle in 2007.

The two recipient at the fifteen-thousand-dollar level are Amie Siegel and Joe Zane; the five recipients of the three-thousand-dollar awards are Claire Beckett, Ambreen Butt, Caleb Cole, Raul Gonzalez, and Eric Gottesman.

Applications for the Artadia Awards were open to visual artists in all media and at any stage of their career working and living in metro Boston. The three first-round jurors—artist Sanford Biggers, curator Dan Cameron, and Hopkins—reviewed 577 applications and selected the 15 finalists in New York in June.

August 6, 2009

Two Works Stolen from Roerich Museum; Acropolis Reverses Decision to Censor Film

The police are now asking for the public’s help in locating two paintings stolen from the Nicholas Roerich Museum on two dates in late June, according to the New York Times. The museum seems perhaps an unlikely location for art crime and intrigue. Housed in a brownstone on a quiet block of the Upper West Side of New York and dedicated solely to the work of an obscure Russian artist, it is open only three hours a day and is rarely mentioned in guidebooks.

The paintings, worth a total of about thirty thousand dollars, are both small: One is ten inches by fourteen inches, and the other is twelve inches by sixteen inches. Daniel Entin, the museum’s director, speculated that their size facilitated the crime.

The paintings were stolen during visiting hours on June 24 and June 28, the police said. “A lot of people come here, and during the open hours, somebody stole one painting,” Entin said. “And then, maybe a day, later stole another.”

He said he believed that the same person, a woman, was responsible for both thefts. The museum displays about 150 works by Roerich, a prolific Russian-born artist who produced about 7,000 paintings in the early twentieth century. A trained ethnographer, Roerich was best known as a costume and set designer, working with the composer Igor Stravinksy on the ballet The Rite of Spring, a work that famously caused a riot when it premiered in Paris in 1913.

In other news, the Acropolis Museum in Greece has reversed a decision to cut part of a short film by the director Costa-Gavras after protests and the threat of a lawsuit, according to the New York Times. His animated short, shown as part of a longer film about the history of the Parthenon, included a scene in which cartoon characters wearing dark cloaks climb ladders and destroy part of the Parthenon’s frieze, a well-documented occurrence during the early Byzantine period when Christians often dismantled pagan landmarks.

Officials from the Greek Orthodox Church contended that the scene misrepresented their attitude toward ancient history. After the scene was cut, Costa-Gavras, who has won two Oscars (for Z and Missing), asked that his name be removed from the film and complained to Greek media that he was being subjected to Soviet-style censorship. But when he explained that the cloaked figures were not priests but merely early Christians, the museum decided to reinstate the scene.

August 6, 2009

Amos Kenan (1927–2009)

Amos Kenan, a member of Israel’s founding generation whose writing and art helped define modern Israeli culture, has died in Tel Aviv, reports Matti Friedman for the Associated Press. Born in 1927 in Tel Aviv, which had been founded less than two decades earlier by Jewish pioneers, Kenan was a product of the city’s rich cultural life. He was known for his newspaper columns, plays, and books, many of which satirized the Israeli government and organized religion, and also as a prolific painter, sculptor, and film director.

In the 1940s, Kenan was one of a number of artists and intellectuals who sought to create an Israeli identity without Judaism by rejecting Jewish history and harking back to the biblical Canaanites, whose name the artists adopted for their group. “Amos Kenan was one of the creators of Hebrew culture––Hebrew, not Jewish,” said Israeli political activist and journalist Uri Avnery, a friend and colleague of Kenan’s since the two met as soldiers during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

August 6, 2009

Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker Appointed Director of Frye Art Museum

The Seattle Times reports that the Frye Art Museum has announced it has chosen Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker as its new director. Birnie Danzker, currently an independent scholar and curator, will take on the position October 1, succeeding Midge Bowman, who is retiring. Birnie Danzker has previously served as director of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich. For the Frye, she has curated exhibits including “The Munich Secession and America” and “Transatlantic: American Artists in Germany.”

August 5, 2009

Cunningham Foundation Plans World Tour, Considers Future

Following the death of Merce Cunningham on July 26, the Cunningham Dance Foundation has entered the next phase of its Legacy Plan, which maps out the future of the organization. According to a press release put out today, the Foundation has begun preparing for a final, two-year world tour by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) to celebrate Cunningham’s legacy. The world tour will include revivals of seminal works alongside current repertory and will offer audiences worldwide a final opportunity to see Cunningham’s choreography on the company he personally trained. Details regarding tour dates and program will be announced in the coming months.

In addition to organizing MCDC’s final world tour, the foundation will continue to support the Merce Cunningham Studio, offering dance classes and educational programs, and continues production of Mondays with Merce, a Web series that provides the public access to Cunningham’s creative process. The Foundation is also continuing its fund-raising campaign for the Legacy Plan, which supports ongoing operations, the world tour, Dance Capsules to preserve Cunningham’s work, and future career transition for dancers and staff. To date, $3.5 million has been raised toward the campaign’s $8 million goal.

The Cunningham Dance Foundation has also announced the leadership of the Merce Cunningham Trust, established in 2000 by Cunningham to hold and administer the rights to his work. Prior to his death, Cunningham named the following trustees to lead the trust: Laura Kuhn, executive director of the John Cage Trust; Patricia Lent, director of repertory licensing for the Cunningham Dance Foundation; Allan G. Sperling, attorney and longtime member of the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s board of directors; and Robert Swinston, assistant to the choreographer, who joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1980.