December 24, 2010

Controversy Arises after Police Remove Activists from Gagosian's Kiefer Show

“Quietly moving through the Anselm Kiefer show at the Gagosian gallery on its final afternoon [December 18] were eight people wearing black T-shirts that bore the show’s portentous title—‘Next Year in Jerusalem’—in English, Hebrew, and Arabic,” writes Claudia Roth Pierpont in the New Yorker’s blog. “They didn’t speak unless spoken to; they took pictures of themselves standing before some equally portentous works of Holocaust-evoking art. (Everyone was taking pictures; the catalogue cost a hundred dollars.) Only if approached did one of the group explain that they were part of an organization called US Boat to Gaza, which plans to sponsor a ship in the next flotilla to sail against the Israeli blockade. Half of the group had left, and they were reduced to four by the time that gallery representatives asked them to leave, unimpressed by their claims to be extending the discussion that Kiefer had begun. ‘This is private property,’ a gallerista in towering heels shot back. ‘We’re here to sell art.’ A call to the police was threatened. In response, the activists put on their jackets—covering the offending Passover phrase, even while complaining that it had not, to their knowledge, been copyrighted—and asked if they might stay. Without reply, the representatives walked away.”

Continues Pierpont, “Ingrid Homberg had gone to Gagosian, had earlier noticed the people in the T-shirts, and now she approached them, hoping to discuss the feelings that the artist’s work provoked. But there was no discussion. Two police officers arrived just a moment after Homberg did, and ordered the group out. Including Homberg. She said that she had no reason to leave. She asked one of the officers why they did not allow the group to speak. And that was it. His partner grabbed her by the arm and began to pull her out. The force of the motion caused her to lose her balance; she fell. On the street, Homberg pulled off her coat and rolled up her sleeve to reveal an arm thickly blotched black and blue. The officer, she explained, had not merely grabbed her arm—thin enough, and easy to grab—but had strongly pressed his fingers into the upper inner muscle as he dragged her. The result, she said, was agony.”

In a widely forwarded email of the account, posted by artist Mira Schor, one of the protesters—artist and antiwar activist Laurie Arbeiter—wrote that the incident “could only be described as brutal. Upon reflection, it was like a staged scene, depicting what happens when the very forces Kiefer warns us about go unchecked.” Added Arbeiter, “It was and still is traumatizing to recount and to attempt to grapple with all the implications of these events unfolding against the backdrop of the Anselm Kiefer exhibition. Our peaceful engagement with the Kiefer exhibition was not a demonstration that day in the gallery but the gallery deserves now to be shown what a real demonstration looks like in response to what it did.”

Pierpont notes, “A Gagosian representative has since expressed regret that anyone was hurt during the ‘unfortunate disturbance.’ The New York Police Department, however, insists that Homberg was merely ‘escorted’ from the gallery, and denies that she was dragged or mistreated in any way.”

December 24, 2010

LACMA Will Repair and Preserve Watts Towers

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art said on Thursday that it had completed an agreement with the City of Los Angeles that puts the museum in charge of efforts to repair and preserve the Watts Towers, the cathedral-like spires and crockery-encrusted forms built by the self-taught artist Simon Rodia in his spare time over more than three decades, according to Randy Kennedy in the New York Times. The towers, which were once almost demolished by the city and then later designated a national landmark, were damaged slightly in the 1994 earthquake and again during a 2008 windstorm.

The museum, with $150,000 supplied by the city’s department of cultural affairs, will collaborate with other art institutions and with community groups in the Watts neighborhood to assess the site’s condition and make a plan for repairs and conservation. The hope is that the effort will lead to greater philanthropic attention and a source of long-term financing to maintain the towers, two of which soar more than ninety feet and have become symbols of Los Angeles’s cultural history.

Rodia, an immigrant from Italy who died in 1965, used basic tools and found or donated materials (scrap iron, mesh, shells, broken glass, and tile) to build the massive artwork, which he described as a monument to America and to the human spirit. “I had it in mind to do something big,” he once said, “and I did it.”

December 24, 2010

Obama Signs Museum and Library Services Act

President Obama has signed into law the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010. The new law reauthorizes the existing programs of the Institute of Museum and Library Services with some important changes. The updated language calls on IMLS to take an active role in research and data collection and to advise the president and congress on museum, library, and information services. This act also clearly recognizes how libraries and museums contribute to a competitive workforce and engaged citizenry, with a new focus on the development of twenty-first-century skills.

The act's principal author, senator Jack Reed (D-RI), said, “The Museum and Library Services Act represents our national commitment to the institutions that are essential to building strong and vibrant communities. Through a relatively modest federal investment, this law helps build capacity to support and expand access to library and museum services at the state and local level." The other original sponsors of the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010 were Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

December 23, 2010

Maria Lind Appointed Director of Tensta Konsthall

Maria Lind has been appointed the new director of Tensta Konsthall. Prior to assuming her duties at Tensta Konsthall January 1, 2011, Lind was director of the Masters program at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in New York (2008–2010). She was head of Iaspis in Stockholm in 2005–2007 and head of Kunstverein Munchen in 2002–2004. From 1997 to 2001 she was a curator at Modern Museet and in 1998 a cocurator of Manifesta 2, Europe’s art biennale.

Lind was educated at Stockholm University and at the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in New York. Since the beginning of the 1990s she has been working as an art critic and her book, Selected Maria Lind Writing, was recently published by Sternberg Press (Berlin). In 2009 she received the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement.

“We are very pleased to be able to recruit one of the world’s most outstanding individuals within the international art sphere as director of Tensta Konsthall,” said Calle Nathanson, chairman of the Tensta Konsthall Foundation.

December 23, 2010

Rome Museum Joins Young Architects Program

The Museum of Modern Art and P.S. 1 have added a third partner to their jointly run annual Young Architects Program. The two museums will collaborate with MAXXI, the National Museum of the Twenty-first Century Arts in Rome, in this year’s competition to transform the courtyard of MoMA million in Long Island City, Queens, for the summer, according to Robin Pogrebin in the New York Times. There will also be a separate installation at MAXXI in Rome.

There are two juries, one in New York and one in Rome, and curatorial representatives from each organization sit on both and will choose the winning architects in February. MAXXI’s finalists include three Italian firms—Raffaella De Simone and Valentina Mandalari of Palermo, Ghigos Ideas of Lissone, and stARTT of Rome. The others are Asif Khan of London and Langarita Navarro Arquitectos of Madrid.

The MoMA/P.S.1 finalists include three Brooklyn firms—Interboro Partners, Matter Architecture Practice, and FormlessFinder (also of New Haven). The other two are MASS Design Group in Boston and IJP Corporation Architects in London and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

December 23, 2010

European Commission, Reversing Decision, Refuses to Classify Flavin and Viola Works as “Art”

In an astonishing move, the European Commission (EC) has reversed a decision made in a UK tax tribunal, and refused to classify works by Dan Flavin and Bill Viola as “art,” reports Georgina Taylor in the Art Newspaper. This means that UK galleries and auction houses will have to pay full VAT (value added tax, which goes up to 20 percent next year) and customs dues on video and light works, when they are imported from outside the EU. The decision is binding on all member states.

The new classification goes against a victory won in a UK tribunal in 2008. A legal battle began after the Haunch of Venison gallery imported six disassembled video installations by Viola into the UK from the US in 2006, and sought to import a light sculpture by Flavin. Declared as “sculpture,” they would only have been liable for 5 percent VAT.

But customs rejected this, and charged Haunch of Venison approximately $60,000 duty. In 2008 Haunch appealed, and won: the VAT and Duties Tribunal ruled that such works were indeed “art” and only liable to 5 percent VAT.

Now the EC has overturned this decision. In its ruling a Flavin work is described as having “the characteristics of lighting fittings…and is therefore to be classified…as wall lighting fittings”. As for Viola, the video-sound installation, says the document, cannot be classified as a sculpture “as it is not the installation that constitutes a ‘work of art’ but the result of the operations (the light effect) carried out by it.”

December 23, 2010

New Executive Director for Downtown LA Art Walk

Joe Moller, who runs an event production company that counts Dr. Dre as a client, is to be named Art Walk’s first full-time, salaried executive director, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Deborah Vankin.

It’s big news for the nonprofit that runs the monthly event, as it has been without any dedicated, paid, full-time staffers since the Art Walk launched six years ago. Board chairman David Hernand says that finding the right candidate was tricky.

“This is not an easy position to fill because it’s a blend of arts, community events, event planning, and it’s a nonprofit. Finding someone who has experience in all those areas was the ideal. And that’s what we found in Joe,” he says.

His company, Joe Moller Events, has produced parties, openings, and other events within both the business and creative communities. He’s done work for the Hollywood Film Festival, Outfest, the Hammer Museum, and the Santa Monica Place mall, among many others. He’s on the board of KEEN LA, a national nonprofit that provides recreational opportunities for children and young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

December 23, 2010

Velasquez Work Confirmed as Authentic

A seventeenth-century portrait by Spanish painter Diego Velazquez is back on show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art years after it was wrongly identified as not being a genuine work, according to the BBC.

The Met downgraded the painting of King Philip IV in 1973, determining it was likely done by an assistant or follower studying under the artist.

But experts reversed the decision after a year’s worth of restoration. The portrait can now be seen in the European Paintings galleries.

It is one of only just over one hundred known works by Velazquez, who was the king’s leading court artist and painted him throughout his reign. The painting, which had been on display since 1914, had not been cleaned and restored since 1911 and scholars debated for years whether it was genuine.

It was among 300 disputed works all downgraded by the Met thirty-seven years ago, despite the museum owning the artist’s signed receipt of payment from the king.

But the painting of the eighteen-year-old king underwent a complete restoration a year ago to remove layers of repainting and thick varnish. X-rays were also used to look though to the original paint, which revealed the distinctive brush strokes of Velazquez.

December 22, 2010

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Sentenced to Jail

According to Borzou Daragahi for the Los Angeles Times a celebrated Iranian filmmaker and opposition supporter has been sentenced to six years in prison and barred from making films or participating in political activity for two decades, his lawyer said.

Jafar Panahi, fifty, is the director of internationally renowned Iranian art films such as The Circle and Crimson Gold, which delved into Iran’s complex social problems. He was a supporter of the protest movement that sprang to life after the disputed 2009 reelection of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was arrested in March on charges of conspiring to make an unauthorized movie that chronicled the movement and released on bail twelve weeks later pending his sentencing.

His lawyer, Farideh Gheirat, told the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency that the Revolutionary Court had handed Panahi the six-year sentence and barred him from writing screenplays or traveling abroad for twenty years.

Another director, Mohammad Rasoulof, who allegedly was collaborating with Panahi on the unfinished movie, was also sentenced to six years in prison, his lawyer told the news agency. The lawyer vowed to appeal the verdict.