September 4, 2009

Buky Schwartz (1932–2009)

Sculptor and video artist Buky Schwartz died on Wednesday, reports Ellie Armon Azoulay for Haaretz. Schwartz was born in Jerusalem in 1932; he studied at the Avni Institute in Tel Aviv and worked as an assistant to Itzhak Danziger. Later, he studied at Saint Martins College of Art in London with Anthony Caro. In 1965, Schwartz was among the founders of the local “10+” Group, along with sculptors Pinhas Eshet, Uri Lifshitz, Ika Braun, and other artists, including Raffi Lavie and Ziona Shimshi. In 2007, the Tel Aviv Museum displayed a comprehensive exhibition on the vivacious group, which held scores of shows throughout the course of its activity. Schwartz represented Israel at the Venice Biennale in 1966. He became deeply engaged in video art in 1977, and his work is considered pivotal in the development of the field in Israel.

September 4, 2009

Annie Leibovitz Gains Extension in Lawsuit over $24 Million Loan

Photographer Annie Leibovitz has bought more time to deal with her financial woes, report Katya Kazakina and Patricia Hurtado for Bloomberg. A New York judge granted Leibovitz an extra month to respond to a lawsuit filed by Art Capital Group, which loaned her twenty-four million dollars last year. Art Capital has accused Leibovitz of reneging on an agreement that made the lending firm the exclusive agent for selling her real estate holdings and photographs.

Leibovitz now has until October 1 to respond under Wednesday’s ruling by New York State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried. A hearing is scheduled for October 2. The decision doesn’t affect Leibovitz’s obligation to pay back Art Capital by September 8. Even if she doesn’t meet the deadline, some legal experts said the firm may not declare her in default because it could force her into bankruptcy.

“Declaring her in default may be like nuclear weapons,” said attorney Thomas Kline, a partner in the Washington office of Andrews Kurth LLP who specializes in art law and litigation. “It would make it more urgent and helpful for her to declare bankruptcy and come under a protection of the bankruptcy court.” Art Capital may prefer to settle out of court, Kline said.

“We hope this can be resolved but are prepared to protect our rights in any scenario that unfolds,” Art Capital spokesman Montieth Illingworth said.

September 4, 2009

Michael Schantz Leaves Woodmere Art Museum

After twenty-eight years in the post, Woodmere Art Museum director Michael Schantz will step down on December 31, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports via Artinfo. When he joined the museum in 1981, Schantz was one of only two employees; now the museum has eleven full-time workers and is undergoing an expansion. The chance to be in that position again––starting up an institution and putting it all together––is the reason for Schantz’s departure, though is it currently unclear where he will go next. Schantz holds a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, and began his career at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

September 4, 2009

British Columbia Restores Arts Funding After Public Outcry

Facing furious public reaction, the government in British Columbia restored cuts in gambling-revenue grants made in the provincial budget and went one step further on Wednesday, reports Jonathan Fowlie and Rebecca Tebrake for the Vancouver Sun. The total amount of grants now allocated to community and arts groups is about twelve million dollars more than what was announced in February, housing and social development minister Rich Coleman said.

Coleman acknowledged that groups that had been promised three-year funding in writing and then were told their grants were canceled had cause for complaint. Coleman indicated about twenty million dollars in grants––ten million this year, ten million next year––would be restored to these groups. He said that an additional thirty million dollars has also been approved to be handed out in grants during the current year, adding that his ministry has seen an uptick in applications.

However, Coleman said the government will end the practice of committing to grants for three-year periods and will return to a year-by-year approach. The three-year funding window had allowed arts groups to do longer-term planning. “The lesson we’ve learned is we probably can’t go to three-year commitments if we don’t know what the fiscal future is going to look like,” he said.

Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, said he was “pleased that the government had the capacity to change its mind” about the restored grants. But Alibhai said the way the government handled the grants decision was “cruel” and “disrespectful.” “People have been confused and seemingly deliberately led astray and misinformed about how gaming revenues are being distributed this year and in coming years,” said Jenn Farrell, who attended a meeting of metro Vancouver arts groups.

September 3, 2009

TIFF Focus on Tel Aviv Draws Protests

An international group of more than fifty prominent filmmakers, writers, artists, and academics––including Ken Loach, David Byrne, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, Wallace Shawn, and Danny Glover––has signed a letter protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to spotlight the city of Tel Aviv and the work of ten Israeli filmmakers. The letter is to be published online today, with a call for additional signatories, reports Michael Posner for the Globe and Mail.

“As members of the Canadian and international film, culture, and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by [TIFF’s] decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv,” the letter begins. “We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.” The letter, coming on the virtual eve of the festival’s thirty-fourth edition, follows Canadian filmmaker John Greyson’s decision last week to pull his short documentary, Covered, from the TIFF lineup to protest the festival’s decision to launch its new City to City program by focusing on Tel Aviv.

The new missive contends that TIFF organizers have, wittingly or unwittingly, been complicit in a million-dollar “Brand Israel” PR campaign to change negative perceptions of the state of Israel. The artists allege that the campaign is designed to “take the focus off Israel’s treatment of Palestinians” and refocus it on achievements in medicine, science, and culture.

Last week, responding to Greyson’s protest, TIFF codirector Cameron Bailey insisted that the Israeli government had played no role in developing the new program. “There was no pressure from any outside source,” wrote Bailey, in a letter posted on the TIFF website. “This focus is a product only of TIFF’s programming decisions. We value that independence and would never compromise it.”

September 3, 2009

Seattle Art Museum Fires Guard for Altering Ono Work

An artist named Amanda Mae has caused a stir in Seattle after she pushed the limits of a participatory Yoko Ono piece at the Seattle Art Museum, reports Artnet. Ono’s seminal work Painting to Hammer a Nail, 1961, is a small panel with a hammer hanging next to it, and a wall label that encourages visitors to POUND A NAIL INTO THIS PAINTING. The work is featured in “Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949–1978.” Recently, visitors to the exhibition have attached a dense ring of announcements, receipts, business cards, and other detritus around the work. Informed about the paper-hanging, Ono stipulated that it was acceptable as long as the scraps were preserved as part of the work, and returned with it.

On August 20, Mae, working as a security guard at the museum, decided to take things a step further. She began to remove all the pieces of paper, categorizing them in neat piles for archiving. Mae dubbed her own performance Yoko Ono Excavation Survey (or YES). The museum’s curator Michael Darling ordered Mae to halt; the next day, she was fired.

Artinfo additionally reports that Mae has since corresponded with Darling, arguing that she had studied Ono’s intent and was attempting to be faithful to the work. A spokesperson for the museum contacted by The Stranger’s art critic Jen Graves commented, “I can say that this is a work of art that’s hanging on the wall in our museum, and altering a work of art hanging on the wall of a museum is never really an OK thing to do.” Since then, Jon Hendricks, a curator who works with Ono, has entered the discussion and admonished Mae for her actions. “I believe that you were wrong to do what you did,” he wrote in a letter to her, though he conceded, “I am certain that you were motivated to do your action by fine principles and good intentions.”

September 3, 2009

California Firefighters Optimistic that Burnham Observatory Will Survive

Artinfo reports that wildfires raging throughout California continue to threaten the Daniel Burnham–designed Mount Wilson Observatory. However, firefighters and station personnel are optimistic that improved weather conditions could aid the effort to save the building. The observatory’s director, Hal McAlister, wrote on the station’s blog yesterday that firefighters, aided by cooler, moister weather, were able to set backfires and drop seventy-five hundred gallons of fire-retardant gel around the station.

McAlister also quotes US Forest Service incident commander Mike Dietrich, who has been leading firefighting efforts in the area, noting that the observatory “is still in good shape” as of early yesterday morning. The Mount Wilson Observatory houses the Hooker telescope, which was the largest in the world from 1917 to 1949. At the time of its construction, Burnham was already known for his 1902 Flatiron Building. He would go on to publish the “Plan of Chicago,” proposing a street system for the city, in 1909.

September 3, 2009

Sundance Announces New Low-Budget Section

The Sundance Film Festival says its 2010 installment will have a new section highlighting innovative work in “low- and no-budget filmmaking,” reports Brooks Barnes for the New York Times. Citing the desire to discover and promote more filmmakers of limited resources, John Cooper, the festival’s director, said in a statement: “These are not just the films that have been labeled Mumblecore or Dogma or even guerrilla. They are an emerging counterculture within our counterculture.” The section, which will be called “Next,” will feature six to eight films. Next year’s festival, which will take place January 21–31, had received more than 3,689 total submissions by September 1.

September 2, 2009

Metropolitan Museum Cuts Major Loan Shows by One Quarter

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present fewer major loan exhibitions in the future, says the museum’s director, Thomas Campbell. In his first major interview since taking on the post (published in the Art Newspaper), Campbell said that economic pressures require a reduction in the number of marquee exhibitions and lavish publications.

Annually, the Metropolitan has been mounting thirty to thirty-five exhibitions, including ten to twelve major loan shows, ten medium-size shows, and various smaller installations. He estimates there will now be 20 to 25 percent fewer large, expensive loan shows. The reductions will not be apparent for some time because the museum makes public its schedule no more than a year in advance.

Campbell, who became director in January, inherited a calendar with exhibitions booked as far ahead as early 2013, but he would not disclose revisions he has made other than the rescheduling of two shows slated for the current fiscal year. An exhibition about the Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, has been moved from autumn 2009 to spring 2010—coinciding with an exhibition of medieval tomb sculptures from the Court of Burgundy—and a survey of early American furniture by Duncan Phyfe has been moved from spring 2010 to spring 2011.

Campbell remains committed to maintaining a menu of international loan shows, but he acknowledges that “the economic circumstances will affect us profoundly.” The endowment, which in recent years yielded one-third of the museum’s operating budget, remains down more than 25 percent from its $2.8 billion level in summer 2008. The museum reduced its operating budget from $220 million in fiscal year 2009 to $206 million for the current fiscal year, and since January has cut more than 350 positions from its workforce, which now stands at around 2,200 employees. Campbell does not rule out charging admission fees for special exhibitions, one of a number of options that will be considered to balance the books.