Despite many public commissions and exhibitions both in the United States and abroad, the voluble and often funny Mierle Laderman Ukeles remains best known for her singular role as the New York City Department of Sanitation's first and only “artist-in-residence.” She assumed this unsalaried position in the early 1980's, but she actually earned it while doing a conceptual piece called Touch Sanitation, for which she spent eleven months crisscrossing the city day and night to shake hands with every one of its 8,500 sanitation workers, telling each, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive.”
For years Stéphane Breitwieser, a youthful-looking Frenchman, traveled through Europe working as a waiter and in his off hours visited out-of-the-way museums where he looked for opportunities to walk off with what he liked. But when he was arrested last November in Switzerland, his mother destroyed $1.4 billion worth of fine art, including works by Brueghel, Watteau, and Lucas Cranach the Elder.
Contemporary art has been surprisingly healthy at all three major sales this week, with records set for established blue-chip names as well as emerging artists. Last night, however, paintings by Gerhard Richter, whose retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art has drawn more than 300,000 visitors since it opened in February, brought the two highest prices. After that, the evening belonged to Andy Warhol.
BONAMI REVEALS PLANS FOR VENICE: According to an article in Il Manifesto, the theme of the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 will be “Dreams and Conflicts.” Curator Francesco Bonami, who announced his project last week, will attempt to explore the gap between “the dreams and the conflicts in which contemporary art is constructed” and “give life to the increase in multiple realities.” In addition to restyling the Italian pavilion—a project that will be undertaken by Italian architect, critic, and curator Massimiliano Gioni—Bonami also intends to establish a national pavilion for Palestine—a proposal that has met with criticism. Biennale committee member Valerio Riva fears that the proposed pavilion will lead to “anti-Semitic demonstrations.” Bonami hopes to appease committee members and develop a working group of cocurators. Curatorial projects at the Biennale will include: Acceleration (Hou Hanru and Carlos Basualdo), Anomaly (Gabriel Orozco), Conflict (Catherine David), Unique System (Igor Zabel, the Clandestine (Bonami), and Utopia (Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija). Officials at the Biennale, however, insist that the exhibition is still in the planning stages and refused to confirm the cocurators.
FRANCE’S NEW MINISTER OF CULTURE: Jean-Jacques Aillagon has been named Minister of Culture and Communication in the new French government. Président of the Centre Georges Pompidou since 1996, Aillagon organized the demonstration “Culture against Le Pen” at the Pompidou and called on members of the arts community to vote for Jacques Chirac in the second round of the recent presidential elections. Le Monde offers a brief portrait of the new minister, who is openly gay. Libération, too, considers Aillagon an acceptable choice, despite the fact that he has been selected by a conservative government: “He’s for the independence of the large museums, less firm on heritage and more open to contemporary expression.” Le Monde also presents a portrait of Guillaume Cerutti, who has been appointed by Aillagon to preside over finance, audio-visual, and film specialists in the culture cabinet. Aillagon’s successor at the Pompidou will also be named by President Chirac, though officials at the Pompidou are saying that the search has not yet begun.
BJARNE MELGAARD EXHIBITION CLOSED: An exhibition by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard at the Museum für Möbel Kunst und Ambiente (M.ART.A) in Herford, Germany, has been banned by the city’s mayor. Before the opening, which was planned for May 4, M.ART.A Director Jan Hoet and curator Ann Demeester consulted a wide range of civic officials, from the police to the animal protection agency, to obtain approval for a performance by the artist that apparently featured a goat in latex, blood, and organs. Shortly after, the local attorney general showed up with his own team of experts to inspect the exhibition and declared that opening it to the public would constitute a “criminal act.” Melgaard’s work, which has been exhibited in the Săo Paulo and Lyon biennials, explores the iconography of Satanism and the “black metal” subgenre of rock n’ roll. However, curator Demeester sees the ban as a direct result of the recent high school massacre at Erfurt. “It’s unfortunate that the government would choose one artist to prove that it’s doing something against violence,” says Demeester. “We did not expect to make a name for M.ART.A with this kind of publicity.” Demeester and Hoet have engaged Peter Raue, the Berlin lawyer who defended Viennese Actionist Günter Brus’s work, to contest the ban. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Georg Imdahl reports on the affair. (Article no longer available online.)
Collectors sniffed at what some consider icons of modern art—Marcel Duchamp's bicycle wheel and snow shovel, his urinal and bottle rack—yet works by contemporary stars like Donald Judd and Edward Ruscha scored record prices on Monday night at Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg.
Fed up with the fact that most art in Cuba is now sold to tourists, a group of artists have taken to the road with their work painted on their cars.
Though the sculpture failed to sell last week, on Monday a Sydney collector bought Large Slow Form, a 1968 bronze abstract sculpture by famed British sculptor Henry Moore for $490,000, an Australian record for a work offered at auction.
The resounding success of the first TriBeCa Film Festival has proved that, as one of its founders, Martin Scorsese, said in his opening address at the award ceremony on Sunday, “a major film festival, pulled together in four months” can be made to happen.
An Internet-based artwork in an exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York was taken offline on Friday because the work was conducting surveillance of outside computers. It is not clear yet whether the artists, the museum, or its Internet service provider are responsible for blacking out Minds of Concern: Breaking News, created by Knowbotic Research, a group of digital artists in Switzerland, but the action illuminates the work's central theme: the tension between public and private control of the Internet.