February 4, 2011

Jeff Koons Backs Down from Intellectual Property Dispute

Clowns everywhere can breathe easier, notes Kate Taylor in the New York Times: Jeff Koons’s lawyers have backed down in an intellectual property dispute over balloon dog-shaped bookends. In December, attorneys representing Jeff Koons LLC sent a cease-and-desist letter to Imm-Living, the Toronto company that manufactures the bookends, and Park Life, a San Francisco gallery that sells them, arguing that they violated Koons’s intellectual property rights.

Bloggers largely scoffed at the threat, but Park Life decided not to just sit around and see if Koons would sue. On January 20, its lawyer, Jedediah Wakefield, working pro bono, sued Jeff Koons LLC in San Francisco federal court, asking the court to declare that Park Life wasn’t infringing on Koons’s rights. “They very quickly indicated they weren’t interested in putting up a fight,” Wakefield said of Koons’s lawyers.

Ultimately, Jeff Koons LLC agreed not to pursue the gallery for the sale of the bookends, and the gallery agreed not to indicate that the bookends were by Koons, which, Wakefield added, “they hadn’t done and weren’t going to do anyway.” As a result of the deal, he said, he was planning to file on Thursday for a dismissal of the declaratory judgment suit.

Meanwhile, Imm-Living’s lawyer, Rod Byrnes, said he had also received a letter saying that it would not pursue the intellectual property claims, as long as Imm-Living didn’t try to tie Koons to the bookends. Byrnes said he found that satisfactory, but wanted confirmation in writing that the settlement was final. Wakefield called the original threat a headscratcher that, in any event, “quickly deflated.”

February 4, 2011

SF MoMA Receives 195 Major Works

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has received major gifts before, but now it has been given a bonanza, writes Carol Vogel in the New York Times. Nine collectors from the Bay Area have together promised the institution 195 works.

Included are examples by artists like Robert Gober, Eva Hesse, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Paul Strand, and Jackson Pollock. In many cases the acquisitions were deliberate efforts to flesh out the museum’s existing holdings. “We had Rauschenbergs but none from the 1950s,” Neal Benezra, the museum’s director said.

And although Bruce Nauman is represented in the museum’s collection, until now his early years were missing. So the museum has been promised twelve Nauman works, three of which were made in the 1960s, when he lived in the Bay Area. And although the museum had an impressive group of paintings by German artists like Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, and Anselm Kiefer, the gift also includes more that will considerably add to its holdings.

The initiative was spearheaded by longtime patrons like Helen Schwab and Robin M. Wright along with a group of trustees: Carla Emil, Robert J. Fisher, Mimi L. Haas, David Mahoney, Chara Schreyer, Norman C. Stone, and Pat Wilson.

February 4, 2011

Curators Announced for Dublin Contemporary 2011

Dublin Contemporary has announced the appointment of joint lead curators of Dublin Contemporary 2011, New York-based curator and writer, Christian Viveros-Fauné, and French-Peruvian artist and curator, Jota Castro. Dublin Contemporary will take place for eight weeks from September 6 to October 31 2011 and will present the work of international and Ireland-based artists.

Christian Viveros-Fauné has written for publications including Art in America, Art Review, the Art Newspaper, and the New Yorker, and was awarded a Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant in 2010. He was named inaugural critic-in-residence at the Bronx Museum for 2010 / 2011 and is a visiting lecturer at Yale University. He is the former director of NEXT in Chicago and VOLTA NY in New York.

Jota Castro is a Brussels-based Franco-Peruvian artist, curator, and a former lawyer with the United Nations and EU Commissioner. In 2009, he curated “The Fear Society” at the Pabellon De La Urgencia for the fifty-third Venice Biennale and successfully negotiated Spain¹s candidature for Manifesta 8. In the same year, he curated “Y ahora que?” at the SOS 48 Festival in Spain, which featured two days of art, music, and philosophy, and attracted approximately eighty-thousand visitors.

February 3, 2011

Drawing Center Plans Expansion

After years of casting around for a new home, the space-starved Drawing Center has found a way to stay put and expand its galleries, reports Carol Vogel in the New York Times.

It has bought 2,000 square feet on the second floor of its home, a nineteenth-century cast-iron-fronted building on Wooster Street in SoHo, where it has been for twenty-five years. Plans call for connecting the ground floor to the newly acquired space. The basement level will be renovated too and linked to the other two floors.

“It’s a new way of thinking about growth,” said Brett Littman, executive director of the Drawing Center. “The reason people love the Drawing Center is because it’s a human-scale organization. We don’t need a 30,000-square-foot atrium, nor do we need a new $60 million building.”

In 2007 the institution was on the verge of moving to the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan, where it planned to build a $60 million museum. But it walked away from the proposal in 2008.

“It was the wrong project at the wrong time,” Mr. Littman said. “Back then SoHo was dying. While it is never going to be what it was in the 1980s, there’s a lot going on, with seventy-five commercial galleries within a ten-minute walk.” He added that attendance has risen 35 percent since 2007 to 35,000 visitors a year. Under the expansion plan the Drawing Center will close when work begins in July and reopen in March 2012.

February 3, 2011

CAA Announces 2010–2011 MFA Fellowships in the Visual Arts

CAA has awarded five 2010–11 Professional-Development Fellowships in the Visual Arts to artists enrolled in MFA programs across the United States. The organization has also recognized the work of five additional artists with honorable mentions.

CAA will award each fellow a one-time grant of five thousand dollars. The fellows are Alma Leiva, Sheryl Oring, Brittany Ransom, Mina T. Son, and Amanda Valdez. Leiva is an artist working in photography, film, and installation at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Oring investigates technology and its role in society through projects that incorporate old and new media in UCSD’s MFA program. Working in new media at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Ransom probes the relationships and differences among humans, animals, and the environment in the form of interactive sculpture, possible prosthetics, wearable recording devices, and digital manipulations. Currently pursuing an MFA in documentary film and video at Stanford University in California, Son makes films on a wide range of topics, offering a glimpse into underrepresented and rarely seen subjects and individuals. And Valdez, an MFA student at Hunter College, City University of New York, investigates craft, abstraction, and recycling-based practices.

February 3, 2011

Egyptian Antiquities In Peril; Troops Guard Museum

Tumultuous protests sweeping across the country carry the hope of a new government, a thrilling prospect for a beleaguered citizenry, writes Laura King in the Los Angeles Times. But as looters move to take advantage of the unrest, archaeological experts warn that Egypt’s treasure trove of antiquities is in peril.

The center of the protest movement, Tahrir Square, abuts the Egyptian Museum, home to thousands of priceless artifacts encompassing centuries of Pharaonic history. For days, the ochre-colored neoclassical building in the heart of Cairo has been closely guarded by troops, tanks, and a human chain of civilian volunteers, but not before it was broken into last week by looters.

The raiders did little serious damage, antiquities officials said, though chaos in the surrounding streets has prevented a thorough reckoning. At least two mummies were damaged, along with a number of smaller objects, and some display cases were smashed, said museum director Tarek Awady. Thieves were said to have penetrated the gated gallery containing the prized King Tutankhamen collection, one of the museum’s main attractions, but apparently broke only a single statue.

That breach, on Friday night, galvanized a contingent of impassioned defenders who have pledged to keep plunderers at bay. Some have been outside the museum since word of the first attack, determined to protect the country’s cultural patrimony.

“It’s the heart of our civilization,” said thirty-two-year-old Ali Said, perspiring in the noonday heat as he stood guard outside the museum Tuesday, arms linked with those of men standing beside him. “And it’s not just for us; it belongs to the entire world.”

February 3, 2011

American Folk Art Museum Faces Mounting Financial Woes

According to Katherine Clarke in the New York Observer, the American Folk Art Museum, just short of its fiftieth birthday, is facing mounting and severe financial pressures. On January 1, the museum missed a payment due on municipal bonds originally issued a decade ago to fund the move to its West Fifty-third Street headquarters. (Bond insurance kicked in.) Earlier this month, the midtown institution disclosed in a forbearance agreement that it is $3.7 million short of the funds needed to make the next payment, due July, and that it has little expectation of being able to raise the funds in the interim. “The institution continues to anticipate that it will not be able to resume payments into the debt service fund for the foreseeable future,” according to documents prepared by Robin A. Schlinger, chief financial officer.

The strategy, beyond an initial round of cost-cutting: an aggressive fund-raising campaign, the courting of at least one big-name billionaire donor and a possible international exhibition of the museum’s treasures. Maria Ann Conelli, executive director of the museum, remains confident. “We’re still here,” she said, “and we have some exciting exhibitions coming up in the near future.” However, when asked specifically about defaulting on bond payments, she deferred to the museum’s lawyer, who did not respond.

Since its much-ballyhooed opening in its new space a decade ago, the well-loved but less-known museum has fallen short of its initial attendance and revenue predictions. Attendance, reaching only around half of the expected 1.7 million in 2005, is down another 18 percent since 2007. Only $306,054 was collected in revenue for admissions in 2009, the last year for which public data is available.

February 3, 2011

John Keefe (1942–2011)

John Keefe, a New Orleans Museum of Art curator who brought high amounts of knowledge and enthusiasm to exhibits he organized on such varied items as antique glass, Wedgwood china, Fabergé eggs, and extravagant perfume bottles, has died, writes John Pope in the Times-Picayune.

Keefe, the curator of the decorative arts since 1983, assembled about 110 exhibits at the City Park museum, said John Bullard, the museum’s director emeritus. Keefe also wrote articles and exhibit catalogs—all in longhand on yellow legal pads, according toWilliam Fagaly, the museum’s curator of African art.

“He was not a part of the Internet world,” Fagaly said. “I always have to insert and delete and rearrange. He didn’t. He just wrote it out.”

Keefe came to New Orleans after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University and holding curatorial positions at the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Besides being able to speak and write authoritatively about the finer points of paperweights, Libbey glass, and Vieux Paris porcelain, Keefe was an avid collector who haunted yard sales and auction houses in search of treasures that less discriminating observers might overlook.

“He loved the quest,” Fagaly said. “He had an incredible eye, so he was able to discern what many other people would pass over. He knew what it was.”

February 3, 2011

Jonathan Bober Leaves Blanton Museum to Head National Gallery’s Department of Old Master Prints

The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin has announced the departure of curator Jonathan Bober, reports the Dallas Art News.

Bober, senior curator of European art since 2010, and prior to that, curator of prints, drawings, and European painting since 1988, will leave the Blanton effective April 30, 2011 to serve as curator and head of the department of Old Master prints at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

During his tenure at the Blanton, Bober was responsible for the acquisition of over eleven-thousand works of art of considerable range and the highest quality, including those in the Suida-Manning and Leo Steinberg collections. Among the many exhibitions that he had conceived and presented at the Blanton, one of the most well-received was “Language of Prints,” 2008, presented concurrently with the national annual meeting of the Print Council of America. In addition, Bober’s in-depth scholarship of the Genoese Renaissance master, Luca Cambiaso, resulted in the first major US exhibition of the artist—“Luca Cambiaso, 1527–1585,” in partnership with Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale—and the first publication on the artist in English. Beyond his exhibitions and collection building, Bober has mentored and trained hundreds of graduate students.