August 21, 2009

Despite Technical Problems, Michigan Arts-Funding Drive Raises $3.75 Million

Organizers of a massive online donation race to raise money for arts groups in metro Detroit are facing mixed reactions about the outcome of their effort, reports Artinfo via the Detroit Free Press. The good news is that the drive succeeded in raising $3.75 million for local cultural groups; the bad news is that technical glitches may have impeded some potential donors and upset others.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, which makes grants to cultural, social, and environmental groups in seven local counties, pledged to donate $1 million to arts institutions––among them the Detroit Institute of Arts––in the form of matching grants to those that individuals would make online. But a rush of users on Tuesday morning strained the system, causing some to spend hours online, unable to get through; others were charged two and three times for pledges worth several thousand dollars. The foundation, and representatives for some of the receiving institutions, are now worried about donor relations and the possibility that they have accidentally sabotaged future online fund-raising endeavors.

August 21, 2009

India Art Summit Opens, Without Works by Acclaimed Painter

India’s largest contemporary art fair opened in New Delhi yesterday, but without works by one of the country’s most acclaimed painters due to fears of attacks by Hindu extremist groups, reports Agence France-Presse. Painter M. F. Husain has angered hard-line Hindus by portraying Hindu deities in the nude or in a sexually suggestive manner. The three-day India Art Summit, which has collections from fifty-four art galleries from India and abroad, decided to “avoid displaying” Husain’s work to prevent any disturbance at the venue, an organizer said.

“We acknowledge the iconic stature of Husain, but are unable to put all the people and artwork at risk,” Neha Kirpal, associate director of the India Art Summit told AFP. In early 2008, a large painting influenced by a Hindu epic fetched $1.6 million, setting a world record at Christie’s South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale. In the same year, members of Hindu group Bajrang Dal damaged Husain’s artwork at an event that displayed his paintings in New Delhi and have also disrupted auctions of his work recently. Hindu groups have also filed over eight hundred court cases against Husain and vandalized his house.

Dadiba Pundole, owner of the Pundole art gallery in the western Indian city of Mumbai, which owns the right to exhibit a majority of Husain’s art work, told AFP he regretted not being able to take part in the event. “It is a shame that we cannot show great works by Husain, but we had no choice as the Indian government did not commit a security blanket to protect his work,” Pandole said.

August 21, 2009

Christie’s Cancels Plans for Art-Investment Fund

Christie’s International has reportedly scrapped plans to start an art-investment fund and a lending division, according to two people involved with the projects. Lindsay Pollock writes for Bloomberg that the move is another sign that the global economic slump is hurting the once-booming art market.

At least seven employees working on Christie’s financial projects have been fired or have left the London-based auction house since December, the people said. Christie’s spokesman Toby Usnik wouldn’t comment on the status of the investment fund or lending operation. He said “a handful of employees in financial services” have left the company this year, though he wouldn’t give specific numbers.

The auction house, owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault, reported a 35 percent sales decline in the first half of 2009. Christie’s announced “significant staff reductions” in January and another round of cutbacks in June without disclosing specific figures or names.

“Christie’s retrenchment, and the continued paring down of financial officers and staff, is symptomatic of the state of the art market,” said Peter R. Stern of McLaughlin & Stern, a lawyer who specializes in art issues. “These actions are necessary if the auction houses want to survive.”

August 20, 2009

UCLA Faculty Rallies to Save Arts Library

The news that the University of California, Los Angeles, is considering closing down its arts library has provoked strong responses from local academics, reports David Ng for the Los Angeles Times. Now faculty members at UCLA have started an online campaign to save the library. “Our goal is to keep the library open but also to demand more transparency,” Steven Nelson, an associate professor in UCLA’s Department of Art History, said in an interview this morning. Nelson and George Baker, also a professor in the department, have launched a Facebook page and an online petition intended to rally support for the library. In less than a day, the petition has attracted more than 350 signatures from all over the world.

In addition, they have sent a formal letter to university librarian Gary Strong, signed by sixty-nine faculty members and others. “It is unconscionable that this library, one that services the myriad needs of hundreds of faculty and thousands of students in some of our nation’s best departments in the arts and humanities, could even be considered for closure,” they wrote.

Nelson said the UCLA library system currently is operating near capacity and that there will likely be no room to absorb the arts collection once the facility closes. “There is nowhere to put the books, and what will happen is that they will become inaccessible,” he said. A formal decision about the fate of the arts library is expected in the fall or winter, according to the university. Nelson said he hopes to organize a meeting with university leaders, including the chancellor, Gene Block, to discuss the fate of the library.

August 20, 2009

Christina von Hassell (1923–2009)

Christina von Hassell, an art reporter and critic who covered auction sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s since settling in New York City in the early 1970s, died last Saturday, reports Artnet. A descendant of Prussian military nobility, Christina von Studnitz studied art history in Prague during World War II; after the war, she worked in an ammunition factory in East Germany and taught English to schoolchildren. She escaped to London during the Soviet blockade of Berlin and then settled in Bonn, where she met and married Wolf Ulrich von Hassell, a West German diplomat who eventually became one of the first ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Germany to the UN. As an ambassador’s wife in New York, she hosted many dinners and receptions at her family's Park Avenue apartment. In her role as an auction reporter, she wrote primarily for Weltkunst magazine and Die Welt.

August 20, 2009

Plans for a New Russian Contemporary Art Museum Unveiled

Russia’s culture minister, Alexander Avdeyev, has unveiled plans for an ambitious $94 million state-sponsored contemporary art museum in Moscow, after offhandedly mentioning the idea in a speech last April, reports Artnet via an article in the Moscow Times. The proposed museum would be an expansion of the relatively modest National Center for Contemporary Art (NCCA), which oversaw “Unconditional Love,” Russia’s official entry into this year’s Venice Biennale. The new building will be seventeen stories tall, grafted on top of the NCCA’s current headquarters, with nearly 270,000 square feet of floor space, a movie theater, and a café. Partly designed by current NCCA director Mikhail Mindlin, the new museum will open in 2015 at the soonest.

August 19, 2009

New Parsons Professor Appointed Director and Chief Curator of Design Center

Parsons has announced the appointment of Radhika Subramaniam as the new director and chief curator of the school's Sheila Johnson Design Center. Subramaniam has also begun as assistant professor of art and design history and theory, as of July 1. Subramaniam is an independent curator, editor, and writer based in New York. Most recently, she held the title of director of cultural programs at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, where she ran a program of art and ideas, including symposia, dialogues, public art, and performance, that advanced the organization’s mission to galvanize downtown with innovative and critical artistic and cultural programming.

Subramaniam was the founding and executive editor of Connect: art.politics.theory.practice, an interdisciplinary art journal published by Arts International.

Through her professional activities, Subramaniam has established a network of collaborations and partnerships including with the Vera List Center at the New School. Her upcoming public-art festival in October, “Art in Odd Places” on Fourteenth Street, includes a project by Eugene Lang students under the direction of Lang professor Simonetta Moro with artists Eve Mosher and Tattfoo Tan.

Subramaniam has many years of teaching experience at the university level, at Barnard College, Columbia University, and New York University.

August 19, 2009

Leibovitz Creditor Goldman Sachs Offers to Negotiate

According to Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs Group said it owns part of the twenty-four-million-dollar loan to photographer Annie Leibovitz that led to the breach-of-contract lawsuit she faces, and offered to work with her to “resolve her financing needs.”

Leibovitz, fifty-nine, faces a complaint filed by another creditor for the loan, Art Capital Group, a New York–based company that lends using art as collateral. Art Capital claims she breached an agreement that allows the company to sell the photographs and real estate she had pledged to back the sum, according to a suit filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan on July 29. Leibovitz’s spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, declined to comment.

“We are deeply troubled by recent developments concerning Annie Leibovitz and Art Capital,” said Andrea Raphael, a Goldman spokeswoman, in an e-mailed statement. “We have proposed to Art Capital that we terminate the current loan agreement with their affiliate so that we can work directly with Leibovitz.”

Art Capital spokesman Montieth Illingworth denied such a proposal has been made. Raphael declined to say how much of Leibovitz’s loan Goldman owns.

August 19, 2009

420 Construction Jobs Delayed as Funding Stalls for Belfast’s New Arts Center

More than four hundred construction jobs are being delayed at Belfast’s new Metropolitan Arts Center because the executive hasn’t released the relevant funding, according to the BBC. This is according to the board of the new multimillion-dollar center. Work was supposed to begin in March, but the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure is yet to release the final seventeen million dollars it had promised the project.

Chairman Jorris Minne said a total of 420 jobs are “in limbo” because work is yet to begin on the twenty-eight-million-dollar center. “If we don’t meet the September 5 deadline, we have to look at having to renegotiate contracts, possibly even going to tender again, which would mean probably waiting another year. This would mean 420 construction jobs having to wait until then.”

Culture minister Nelson McCausland was unavailable for comment. However, in a statement his department said it was “committed to developing the arts infrastructure in Northern Ireland and the Metropolitan Arts Center is one of a number of key projects.”