June 15, 2007

Major Collection of British Art Donated to Clark Art Institute

Britain’s long-held hope of acquiring for the nation an extraordinary collection of Constable, Gainsborough, and Turner masterpieces was dashed yesterday, reports Dalya Alberge for The Independent. Many had thought that Sir Edwin Manton, a British millionaire who made his money in the United States and died two years ago at the age of ninety-six, would donate his private collection of two hundred paintings and drawings to the Tate. In 1997, Manton received a knighthood after donating nearly £13 million ($25.7 million) to the gallery, making him its most generous benefactor after its founder, Sir Henry Tate. Instead, it was announced that the works would be going to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts. Michael Conforti, director of the Clark, said: “This magnanimous and visionary gift advances the Clark’s dual mission as both a public art museum and a center for research and higher education.” He added that the Manton family was still loyal to the Tate but that because Manton’s daughter and granddaughters were American citizens, they wanted his legacy to extend to another institution in their own country.

June 15, 2007

Murakami Visits Basel in Preparation for Geisai

Takashi Murakami, the Japanese artist and curator, arrived in Basel on Tuesday, not just to peruse the thousands of artworks on view at Art Basel, the annual contemporary art fair, but also to scout possible sites for his Geisai show, which he has been running twice a year in the Big Sight Exhibition Center in Tokyo since 2002, reports the New York Times' Carol Vogel.

“I had applied to Art Unlimited,” Murakami said of a large space next to Art Basel’s main hall where outsize artworks are on view. “But they didn’t have room.” Geisai, which lasts only one day and takes its name from the Japanese word for art festival, is to give young Japanese artists the opportunity to show their work and be noticed by an international panel of judges who are art professionals. Each artist pays Kaikai Kiki, Murakami’s company, about two hundred dollars for a space to show at Geisai, and at each event the panel selects several artists to show their work. (Kaikai Kiki also takes a 10 percent agent’s fee for any works that are sold.)

“We are planning to do a smaller version of Geisai at Pulse in Miami,” Murakami said, referring to a fair timed to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach every December. “But the Geisai in Miami won’t just be for Japanese artists. Local artists will be able to show there too.”

June 14, 2007

Rockefeller Foundation's New Arts Fund; LA County Gives to Cal State Arts Center

The Rockefeller Foundation announced yesterday the creation of a $2.5 million New York City Cultural Innovation Fund to promote new directions in the arts, reports Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times. Grants from $50,000 to $250,000 will be awarded for new creative work in the visual, performing, and media arts that demonstrates an engagement with the issues shaping New York City’s future cultural and civic agenda. The foundation also named three advisers to the fund: Lowery Stokes Sims, former president of the Studio Museum in Harlem; David Thorpe, global director of innovation at Ogilvy Worldwide; and Andrew Zolli, curator of the annual Pop!Tech conference.

Hoping to create a new San Fernando Valley landmark, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is scheduled today to boost county support of a new, hundred-million-dollar performing-arts center at Cal State, Northridge, writes the Los Angeles Times' Susannah Rosenblatt. Yaroslavsky will contribute two million dollars in taxpayer money from his district's share of the county's capital-projects budget. The Northridge arts venue will include a performance hall, a studio theater, broadcast studios, rehearsal space, a lecture hall, and an art gallery. The seventeen-hundred-seat venue will operate in partnership with the county-owned Music Center downtown, which includes the Center Theater Group and the Los Angeles Opera.

June 12, 2007

Lee Nagrin (1929–2007)

Lee Nagrin, a noted Off Broadway performance artist, director, and member of Meredith Monk’s theater company, The House, died Thursday in Manhattan, reports the New York Times. She was seventy-eight. The cause was colon cancer, said Barbara Busackino, a colleague. Nagrin performed with Monk from 1971 to 1981, appearing in Vessel, Education of a Girl Child, Quarry, Ellis Island, and other works. She formed her own company, the Sky Fish Ensemble, in 1979. For her last piece, Behind the Lid, she collaborated with the puppeteer Basil Twist on a story in which a woman looks back on her life through a dream. Nagrin’s survivors include her companion, Bruce Hutchinson.

June 12, 2007


This week's International News Digest, compiled by Jennifer Allen, has just been posted. Click to read news from Italy, France, Austria, and elsewhere.

June 12, 2007

Art Basel Announces Three New Directors

Messe Schweiz has announced that on January 1, a new management team will assume directorship of the international art fairs Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach. Succeeding Sam Keller, the current director of the shows, will be a triumvirate comprising Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Annette Schönholzer, and Marc Spiegler. Rabinowitz, currently the senior US editor of Parkett and a faculty member at Parsons, will assume the role of artistic director of the fair; Annette Schönholzer, who has been show manager at Art Basel Miami Beach since 2002, will be in charge of organization and finances; and Marc Spiegler, a freelance journalist and columnist, will be responsible for strategy and development.

June 12, 2007

Viveros-Fauné Returns to Criticism; New Manzoni Merda d'Artista Revelation

Christian Viveros-Fauné has left Roebling Hall, which he co-owned with partner Joel Beck, to return to writing about art. His first piece for the Village Voice, about painter Neo Rauch, runs in this week's issue. Viveros-Fauné has written widely about contemporary art and was art critic for the New York Press from 1999 to 2002. The gallery will make an official announcement about his departure soon.

In other news, when the Italian artist Piero Manzoni put his excrement into tin cans in the early 1960s and offered it as art, he said that he was exposing “the gullibility of the art-buying public.” According to Richard Owen of Independent.ie, it emerged yesterday that the tins contained not feces, as was believed, but plaster.

Agostino Bonalumi, who worked closely with Manzoni, recalled yesterday that Manzoni presented a can on which he had replaced the label with another on which he had written the words MERDA D'ARTISTA. Bonalumi said people have always asked what is in the unopened cans. “I can assure everyone that the contents were only plaster. If anyone wants to verify this, let them do so.” Manzoni once said that he hoped that the cans would explode, and about half are reported to have done so. But none of the owners have revealed the contents.

June 11, 2007

Venice Biennale Reviews; Pinault's Dogana Ready for Next Biennale; Palazzo Grassi Director to Head Versailles; Pro Austria in the Works?


“Expanding.” “Tragic.” “Well-behaved.” “Serious.” “Undistinctive.” Those of some of the adjectives that stand out in the first round of press reviews of the Venice Biennale. Corriere della Serra's Sebastiano Grasso notes the great expansion of the event, which is making the central exhibition “unrecognizable” due to the invasion of collateral shows at alternative sites: “Exhibitions in homes and offices, in former churches, palace courts, private galleries,” writes Grasso. “Artistic scenes are multiplying and the whole city is for rent, including the islands.”

Le Monde's Harry Bellet and Philippe Dagen see reflections not of expanding sites but of the darkness of our current era. “It's impossible to be mistaken here,” write Bellet and Dagen. “The entire 52nd Venice Biennale—the national pavilions in the Giardini, the Arsenale, and the various exhibitions in the palazzi—breathes the air of the times, sometimes tragic, sometimes funerary. It is generalized, whatever the continent, the generation or the artists. . . . It gives the Biennale, which is so often confused, tonality and coherence. The work of artistic director Robert Storr is a success; his Biennale [is] one of most interesting of the past decade.”

Die Frankfurter Rundschau's Elke Buhr is not so convinced, especially by the Arsenale. “[It's] an exhibition that has noticed that the world really exploded at all corners and ends—but that found no other form of argumentation, other than well-behaved illustration,” writes Buhr. “The documentary is at work again and again, with photographs of fences, soldiers, demonstrations, destroyed cities. In Paolo Canevari's work, a boy plays football with a human head; the young American Emily Prince draws with pencil the passport photos of Americans killed in the Iraq war and wallpapers a wall [with them]. The political seems so zealous here that a marvelously poetic work like the trick film of Francis Alÿs about shoe shining nearly disappears.”

Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung's Samuel Herzog underscores Storr's attempt to unite feeling and intellect in the present. “An exhibition developed that does away with anything spectacular and is determined by a thoroughly serious basic tone,” writes Herzog. “The art appears here as a beauty braked by the froth of the times, which finally does away with all makeup and reaches interior values by stressing outer attractions.”

Der Standard's Markus Mittringer finds Storr's show well executed. “But one could also say: undistinctive. Waste dumps full of testimonies to correctness are punctuated by fairlike rides.”


It's official: François Pinault's new contemporary-art center located in the Punta della Dogana will be open for the next Venice Biennale, in 2009. According to reports from AFP and Le Monde, the French collector and Christie's owner made the statement upon signing the official contract for the Dogana project with Venice mayor Massimo Cacciari. In order to make the 2009 inauguration, Pinault, who is already occupying the Palazzo Grassi, has called for a rapid construction project, which will develop under the plans of star architect Tadao Ando.

“I know what artworks will be exhibited here [in the Dogana],” Pinault told reporters. “But I'm not going to tell you! And then it's contemporary art, which evolves quite rapidly. In two years, new masterpieces will surely emerge, so we'll have to wait.” While keeping secrets, Pinault plans to take advantage of the Dogana's vast 4,500-square-meter (48,438-square-foot) exhibition space, including the higher ceilings in comparison with the Palazzo Grassi. “We want to exhibit more large and heavy works,” said Pinault. “That's the interest of this building, which is very tall. And we will show different works—it will not be a static exhibition.”


In other Pinault-related news, the director of the Palazzo Grassi, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, has been named president of the Château de Versailles, just outside Paris. Aillagon, who was the French minister of culture from 2002 to 2004, takes over from Christine Albanel, who was named minister of culture last month by newly elected president Nicolas Sarkozy. From 1996 to 2002, Aillagon acted as the president of Paris's Centre Pompidou. The sixty-year-old bureaucrat has been directing Pinault's project in Venice since March 2006. No word on whether Aillagon will maintain his position at the Palazzo Grassi.


Austria may soon enjoy its own version of the Swiss arts-funding council Pro Helvetia. Der Standard's Thomas Trenkler reports that the announcement was made during the official opening of the Austrian pavilion in Venice by Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. While promising a “Pro Austria” for “contemporary art,” Gusenbauer offered no further details, despite questions from reporters at the event. There were no clarifications from the Austrian cultural ministry. Trenkler wonders if the council would follow the Pro Helvetia model and thus fund international art events, beyond the borders of Austria. The proposal has surfaced earlier in 1999, although Trenkler notes that the former plan was not to support contemporary art but rather to purchase restituted artworks.

Jennifer Allen

June 11, 2007

Hermann Parzinger Named Head of Berlin Museums

Hermann Parzinger, an archaeologist, was named yesterday to run Berlin’s museums, libraries, and archives, reports the New York Times, and will replace Klaus-Dieter Lehmann in March 2008. Parzinger, forty-eight, is the president of the German Archaeological Institute, and his appointment will put him in charge of the Prussian Culture Foundation, the biggest such institution in Germany, with museums like the Pergamon and the Neue Nationalgalerie. He will also oversee the reconstruction of Museum Island, a project that is expected to be completed in 2015 at a cost of €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion).