August 17, 2007

Future Museum for Fisher Collection Faces Criticism

In response to the proposed new Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio, the endeavor intended to provide a home for the thousand-piece modern-art collection of Donald and Doris Fisher, a number of prominent voices have already cried foul, reports Artnet. Many wonder whether the Presidio, a former military base, is the right place for the mammoth new museum, which will weigh in at one hundred thousand square feet in all.

While saying that the idea of a public home for the Fisher collection was “wonderful news” for the city, the San Francisco Chronicle immediately editorialized against the project, arguing that there was little chance that a showpiece museum could respect the historic architecture of the site. Environmental impact is another concern, given that there is limited public transportation to the area, and car access only through the residential marina district, guaranteeing increased clutter. According to a variety of reports, the Fishers had several opportunities to make a public home for their collection in more accessible locales. The San Francisco Bay Guardian has criticized the Presidio location as well, saying that “the museum would be on public land, but [Fisher would] run it himself, in his own way, with no public oversight.”

August 15, 2007

Bruce Wolmer (1948–2007)

Bruce Wolmer, the former editor in chief of Art & Auction magazine and a noted presence in the international art world for over twenty years, died in New York of complications from diabetes on August 10, reports and the New York Sun. He was fifty-nine years old. A widely published freelance critic and journalist for a bevy of publications, from the Paris Review to the Wall Street Journal, Wolmer also held senior positions at a number of art magazines before joining Art & Auction in 1990. Friends and colleagues said he was deeply intellectual—he was ABD in the history of ideas from the Johns Hopkins University—but also had an appetite for gossip and enjoyed the flash of the art world. Wolmer is survived by his widow, Colleen Babington, and his mother, Elaine Katz.

August 14, 2007

Capp Street Project Resident Artists and 2008 Carnegie Art Awards Announced

Founded in San Francisco in 1983, Capp Street Project was the first visual-arts residency program in the US dedicated solely to the creation and presentation of new art installations. Now, with a new curatorial team in place under the direction of Jens Hoffmann, the CCA Wattis Institute for contemporary arts is relaunching Capp Street Project. As of this fall, two new initiatives will be introduced: a public-art commission and a research residency. Each year, one artist will be invited to create a new work in the immediate vicinity of the Wattis Institute and another will be invited to realize a research-based project that is embedded in the college's curriculum. The first two resident artists are Mario Ybarra Jr. and Tim Lee.

Elsewhere, the Carnegie Art Award foundation has announced the winners of its Carnegie Art Awards for 2008. First prize goes to Swedish artist Torsten Andersson, second prize to Danish artist Jesper Just, third prize to Danish artist John Kørner, and the scholarship for a young artist to Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg. The awards ceremony will take place at the opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki on October 25.

August 14, 2007

SVA Appoints David Levi Strauss Chair of MFA Art Criticism and Writing

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York has announced the appointment of David Levi Strauss to the position of chair of the MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department. A writer and critic whose essays and reviews appear regularly in Artforum and Aperture, Strauss has been widely praised for his work, particularly on the subject of photography. He heads to SVA from Bard College, where he was on the faculty since 2001. Strauss is author of, among other books, Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (2003) and is a contributing editor at Aperture and the Brooklyn Rail. Strauss was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003 for Image & Belief, an inquiry into how and why we believe photographic images the way we do, inspired in part by the events of 9/11.

August 14, 2007

Gaehtgens to Succeed Crow as Getty Research Institute Director

Thomas W. Gaehtgens, an internationally recognized scholar who is director of the German Center for the History of Art in Paris, will be the new leader of the Getty Research Institute, sources close to the Getty say. Suzanne Muchnic of the Los Angeles Times reports that his appointment, expected to be announced today, will end a ten-month search for a successor to Thomas Crow, who left the prestigious position to chair the department of modern art history at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. Gaehtgens was a visiting scholar at the Getty in 1985–86, when he took a break from the Free University of Berlin to work on a catalogue raisonné of eighteenth-century French painter Joseph-Marie Vien and to advance his study of the work of twentieth-century American painter Marsden Hartley.

August 14, 2007

International News Digest

This week's International News Digest, compiled by Jennifer Allen, is now online. Click to read news from Germany, Venice, Serbia, and elsewhere.

August 13, 2007

Münster Reports High Visitor Rates; Documenta's Mini-Marathon; Dumas Takes Düsseldorf Prize; Roma Pavilion at Venice; World Records for Photo and Graffito


Last week, Documenta 12 announced high midpoint visitor numbers, but now it's Skulptur Projekte Münster's turn to celebrate. Halfway through the citywide exhibition, Münster has welcomed 350,000 visitors to see its thirty-four public artworks—20,000 more than Documenta 12 has attracted over the same period. As APA and DPA report, the event, which occurs every ten years, might well surpass its own record of 500,000 visitors, set during the last installment, in 1997. According to curator Brigitte Franzen, the success of this year's edition means that Skulptur Projekte 2017 is “almost sure” to take place. This year's edition ends September 30.


Last weekend in Kassel, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Rem Koolhaas held a six-hour “mini-marathon” of interviews for an afternoon at the Kulturbahnhof. A collaboration with Documenta 12 and the German architectural magazine Archplus, the event brought together a wide range of figures, including artists Sejla Kameric, Thomas Bayrle, Antje Majewski, Thomas Schütte, Harun Farocki, and Hito Steyerl.

The Frankfurter Rundschau's Arno Widmann was unimpressed with the “two uninterested talk-show hosts,” Obrist and Koolhaas, who got poor marks for lack of interaction with both the audience and the guests. “Koolhaas and Obrist read their questions from slips of paper,” writes Widmann. “And basically they did not listen when their guests spoke but instead flipped through the books written by them and noted down excitedly the next question on a slip of paper.”

Widmann offers Kameric as a case in point. Born in 1978 in Sarajevo, the artist spoke of her memories of the city's bombardment, but her story failed to garner any interest. “Her search for an identity beyond that of the reviled Bosnian girl was registered,” writes Widmann, “and then it merged into the interview marathon as a gruesome piece of reality, not to be taken seriously.”

Given such exchanges, Widmann can't figure out what drives Koolhaas and Obrist to undertake such marathons. (The installment in Kassel was the third of its kind.) “Koolhaas seems to be curious enough to meet all these people,” writes Widmann. “But when they are there, his entire ambition consists of getting through hour after hour with the help of a lot of coffee, tidbits, and mineral water. . . . It's only about sticking it out.”


Marlene Dumas has won Germany's prestigious Düsseldorf art prize, worth €55,000 ($74,875). As the APA and DPA report, the South African artist—who has lived in the Netherlands since 1976—was chosen to show in the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1995. In addition to participating in Documenta in 1982 and in 1992, Dumas was honored with a retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2001. The Düsseldorf prize, which was awarded to Bruce Nauman last year, will be presented to Dumas in an official ceremony in the city this fall.


Citing the Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság, Eurotopics reports on an art milestone: the first Roma pavilion at the Venice Biennale. A stateless contribution aptly titled “Paradise Lost,” the pavilion shows works by Roma artists living across Europe. Népszabadság's Agnes Bihari spoke with the English artist Daniel Baker about his particular approach to identity. “I am a Roma,” Baker told the newspaper. “There's no doubt about that, but at the same time I'm an Englishman. But that's the way it is for everyone, isn't it? Our identity is composed of several elements, one of which pushes itself to the fore . . .”

Baker, who chooses to paint on mirrors instead of canvases, explains his method in relation to identity politics. “The mirrors point to an imaginary place which society has allocated to the Roma,” said the artist. “We're never seen for who we really are. We're perceived either as a social problem or as romantic, slightly mysterious figures holding violins or some other such prop.”


It's official: The Great Picture—a photograph measuring 31 feet 7 inches by 111 feet, and taken at a former Marine Corps base in California last year—has been officially recognized as the world's largest. As Der Standard and APA report, Guinness World Records certified both the photograph and the unique camera used to make the image of the El Toro base. Six photographers working for the nonprofit organization The Legacy Project effectively transformed one of the hangars at the base into a gigantic camera obscura. It took thirty-five minutes of exposure—and a 3,375-square-foot canvas substrate custom made in Germany—to create the final image. The Great Picture will be shown September 6–29, 2007, at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.


Photography is not the only art to celebrate a milestone. Der Standard reports with APA on yet another record: the world's longest graffito. Last week, in the central Serbian city Kragujevac, thirty young people—from Italy, Germany, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia—came together to create a two-thousand-foot-long graffito in a city park. The work—which took twenty-three hours and seven hundred cans of spray paint to produce—bears pleas for peace as well as antifascistic and antinationalistic slogans. The result will now be considered by Guinness World Records; currently, the record for longest graffito is held by a 1,663.4-foot-long work made last year in Turin.

Jennifer Allen

August 13, 2007

Elizabeth Murray (1940–2007)

Elizabeth Murray, a New York painter who reshaped modernist abstraction into a high-spirited, cartoon-based language of form whose subjects included domestic life, relationships, and the nature of painting itself, died yesterday at her home in upstate New York, writes Roberta Smith in the New York Times. She was sixty-six and lived in TriBeCa and in Washington County, New York. The cause was complications of lung cancer, said Douglas Baxter, president of PaceWildenstein, which has represented her work since 1995. Murray received a full-dress retrospective spanning her forty-year career at the Museum of Modern Art in 2006, becoming one of a handful of women to be so honored. In 1999, she was the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. In Murray’s mature work, eccentrically shaped or multipanel canvases fused Cubism’s shattered forms and Surrealism’s suggestive biomorphism with the scale and some of the angst of Abstract Expressionism and more than a touch of Disneyesque humor and motion.

Update, August 14: Click here to read an appreciation of the artist by Verlyn Klinkenborg.

August 13, 2007

Christie's Follows Sotheby's Lead with Plan to Open Russian Auction House

Christie's International, the world's largest auction house, plans to open its first office in Russia as the country's wealthy buyers play an increasingly important role in the booming global art market. The Moscow Times' Katya Kazakina reports that the new branch, scheduled to open by the end of the year, will be in Moscow, though the auction house has not made a final decision on the location, according to Ellen Berkeley, Christie's director of business development in Europe. Rival auction house Sotheby's opened a Moscow office in May.

Forbes reports that Russia has more billionaires than any other country except the United States and Germany. Russian collectors “are connoisseurs now,” Berkeley said. “They know exactly what they want.”