Under the Big Top
The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota is returning to its roots in November when it unveils a set of four newly-conserved circus banners designed around 100 years ago by the Belgian artist Frank De Vos. The pieces, which were used in circus advertising campaigns, were heavily used and in poor condition when the collector Howard Tibbals bought them in 1989 (because of the wear and tear, few like them still exist today). A museum conservation team led by Barbara Ramsey spent seven years (2005-12) working on the banners, which will be unveiled to the public on 7 November.
Polish artist's peckish pieces
The phrase “You are what you eat” takes on new—and slightly nauseating—meaning in the artist Martynka Wawrzyniak’s latest body of work. Every night for one year, the Polish artist used an identical white cloth napkin to wipe her mouth at dinner and then meticulously catalogued the ingredients of each meal. The fruits of this compulsive exercise, which she describes as a self-portrait, are on show at envoy enterprises in New York ("Feed", until 12 October). Wawrzyniak sewed together the 365 soiled napkins in chronological order to create an interlocking, 100-foot-tall walk-in structure that hangs from the gallery ceiling. She also created a limited edition cookbook that pairs a photograph of each napkin with a corresponding list of ingredients for the evening’s meal. “I felt like I was sharing my meals with the public every day and made a conscious effort to be creative in my choice of ingredients,” Wawrzyniak says. “It was like having a daily dinner party.”
Artists not wanted
Well artists, you had a good run. It’s not easy working in today’s art world, as the artist Bob and Roberta Smith knows. Perhaps that’s why Smith put out a call to colleagues to just give up. “Pack it in,” the artist says in a press release for the forthcoming project Art Amnesty at MoMA MoMA PS1. “Turn in your brushes and video cameras. Hand in your chisels and marble. Bob and Roberta Smith are offering an opportunity for artists to dispose of their artwork… and to retire from making art.” As the artist explains in the release: “Many successful artists have recently voiced embarrassment that their work commands high prices. Artists may also use the opportunity… to expel certain works of art from the art market and demote them to objects unburdened by grand expectations and dashed dreams.” From 2 October, artists can ditch their unwanted works in dumpsters installed in the museum’s courtyard, while those who prefer to have one final show before their art is destroyed can bring it to the main galleries on the second floor. Everyone will also be able to sign a pledge assuring the world that “I Promise Never To Make Art Again” and will receive an official “I Am No Longer An Artist” badge. We’re going to hold some of you out there to that.
Scotland vs England: battle of the blockbusters
Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland has pre-empted London’s British Museum twice, by getting in first with exhibitions on the same subject. Battle was joined over the Vikings. The Edinburgh museum presented its Vikings show in spring 2013, with the British Museum following with an entirely separate exhibition early 2014. This year it is China. The Edinburgh museum is well into its exhibition ‘‘Ming: The Golden Empire’’ (until 19 October), whereas the British Museum will open its quite different show, ‘‘Ming: 50 years that changed China’’ on 18 September, which, by chance, is the date of the long awaited Scottish referendum on independence. Although the British Museum is once again in second place, we can perhaps blame a Scotsman—its director Neil MacGregor.
Meschac Gaba hoists his flag in Berlin
When Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in Berlin decided to show more art from Africa, Asia and the Middle East it turned to Tate Modern in London for a helping hand. The collaboration, which was announced last year, between the Tate and the bank’s art space (Deutsche Guggenheim back in the day) now bears its first fruit. Seven rooms of Meschac Gaba’s sprawling and nomadic 12-room installation Museum of Contemporary African Art, 1997-2002, which the Tate acquired in 2012, are due to be unveiled in the bank’s space on Unter den Linden next week (20 September-16 November). The Benin-born artist has created a flag to commemorate the abridged Museum’s arrival in Berlin complete with a heraldic bear. And Chris Dercon, the director of Tate Modern, is due in the city to give his blessing ahead of its opening and for a talk with the artist in October. Dercon was a witness at the artist’s wedding in 2000, which took place in the Stedelijk in Amsterdam. Memorabilia of the happy day, including the bride's dress, shoes and veil plus the couple's wedding certificate are now preserved by the Tate in The Marriage Room of Gaba's Museum.
Buy a Koons handbag, help save the world
Everybody loves a good cause, and there is none better than promoting the importance of vaccinations. So we welcome the news that Jeff Koons is to create a new sculpture incorporating luxury handbags donated by the likes of Diane von Furstenberg, Saudi princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz and Princess Caroline of Hanover. The resulting work, which is due to be auctioned in New York on 9 November, will confer upon its lucky buyer the prestige of owning an exclusive work by one of the most celebrated artists of our times that doubles as a stand for his or her new collection of handbags previously owned by royalty. Other lots will consist of further handbags—all customised by Koons—donated by luminaries from the worlds of film, fashion and art, such as the film director Sofia Coppola and the gallerist Almine Ruiz-Picasso. The sale is the first venture of Project Perpetual, which was founded by the Russian collector Svetlana Kuzmicheva-Uspenskaya to support United Nations Foundation programmes.
The French conceptual artist Bernar Venet has launched his own foundation in the south of France on a four-hectare estate that is one of the art world's best kept secrets. The grounds of Le Muy are dotted with works by artists such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Frank Stella, who all formed firm friendships with Venet. "I used to exchange works with artist friends in Nice back in the 1960s," says the artist, adding that he did his first major swap with conceptual art trailblazer LeWitt in 1970. “Four years ago Jannis Kounellis had a show in Toulon at the Hotel des Arts. Just before the exhibition ended, I sent him a message suggesting that since he was passing by on his return to Italy, wouldn't it be a good idea to drop off one of his works?” says Venet. If you don't ask, you don't get and Venet bagged a prime Kounellis piece: Untitled, 2005. “I got a positive reply the day after and I sent him one of my works in return,” the canny artist says.
Olafur, the teenage breakdancing champ, returns to Louisiana
Olafur Eliasson’s “Riverbed” is wowing visitors at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek (until 4 January 2015), but this is not the first time that the artist has graced the Danish museum. According to the exhibition catalogue, 17-year-old Eliasson appeared there in 1984 in a breakdancing performance linked to the show “New York Graffiti”. He also toured Scandinavia with his teenage posse, the Harlem Gun Crew, and even won a national breakdancing championship, according to the Guardian newspaper. As they say in hip-hop circles: respect.
Jeff Koons plugs in with Jimmy Page
Jeff Koons will get a chance to interview one of his longstanding heroes, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy Page, at a sold-out talk on 3 November at the 92nd Street Y. A publicist working with Page confirmed the event, which is a promotion of the musician’s forthcoming “autobiography in photos”, but has not yet offered an explanation for the pairing. Devout Koons fans, however, may recognise that the artist has cited the band as an influence on his work on several occasions. In a 2008 talk at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Koons credited the band with influencing his plans, still unrealised, to dangle a train car from a crane: “On kind of a subconscious level, it’s like a Led Zeppelin stairway to heaven or something.” In 2012, Koons told Interview Russia that he was “very inspired by Led Zeppelin—Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. At 16 I spent hours driving around in the car listening to their songs. I met Plant in person not too long ago and told him, ‘You taught me how to feel.’” He repeated the sentiment more recently in a February talk in LA with the director John Waters and in a television interview with Charlie Rose this summer, when he simply stated “I love Led Zeppelin, Charlie”. Ramble on, Jeff.
Sears serves up animal art
Kim Sears hasn’t been available lately to talk about her artistic efforts—painting portraits of pets—possibly because of her other role, which is to sit in the visitors box at tournaments when her boyfriend, the Scottish tennis player Andy Murray, is engaged in a match (the Celtic sportsman recently reached the fourth round of the US Open). During those matches, he looks grim and so does she at times but on her website (www.kimsears.com), she is all smiles, hugging her border terriers Mayhem and Rascal. She also owns some goldfish, Gary and Gabriella, although it is dogs of all types that dominate the online portfolio pages: cocker spaniels, bulldogs, Labradors, Weimaraners and Jack Russell terriers, as well as the occasional cat and horse. “I view my painting first and foremost as a hobby,” she says online, “which has fortunately grown enough for me to take more seriously.” Between matches, one supposes.
Animal Farm meets Alice Walton’s museum
If you go down to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in a fortnight’s time, you’ll be able to try out as an understudy for a Napoleonic role. An interactive work inspired by George Orwell’s fable of totalitarianism called Understudy for Animal Farm will be one of the participatory works in the survey show “State of the Art” (13 September-19 January 2015) organised by the museum founded by Walmart heiress, Alice Walton. The Santa Fe-based, Brazilian-born artist Ligia Bouton’s installation invites visitors to choose among the bright and folksy pig’s head hoods, which are made of bed linen, and then pose in front of backdrop of rolling Cornish countryside and a five-bar gate to have their photo taken. There is a sinister twist, however. “As the pigs begin to walk upright and move into the deserted farmhouse, it is the wool plaid and floral chintz of rural England that indicate the pigs’ authority,” Bouton explains in an artist’s statement. “In this way, Orwell creates an unexpected friction between the menacing force of the pigs’ tyrannical rule and the mundane, domestic sphere.” Four legs good, two legs better, as the dystopian slogan goes.
Gallery takes to the streets, visitors in tow
The street-art gallery Choque Cultural has launched a new project space, Choque-Centro, in old downtown São Paulo. “The area was run down until a few years ago, but now lots of innovative art spaces are blooming,” says Baixo Ribeiro, the gallery’s co-founder. This month, Choque-Centro is offering curator- and artist-guided walking tours, including visits to an installation by Mariana Martins at the Lâmina art space and to Studio Cúpula. “Both places have new approaches to art and the public experience, proposing fusions over food and drink, pocket shows and performances beyond the conventional,” Ribeiro says. J.H.
Curators attack ‘vain’ work in Niemeyer space
An installation by the Brazilian artist Lais Myrrha in Pivô, an artist-run space in São Paulo, has been branded “vain and opportunistic” by curators. The site-specific work, Projeto Gameleira 1971, 2014 (below), is in the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Copan building in downtown São Paulo. It was inspired by another building designed by the architect that caused the death of more than 100 workers when it collapsed during construction in 1971. The curators Lauro Cavalcanti and Pedro Mendes da Rocha, who were in charge of a Niemeyer retrospective at the city’s Itaú Cultural this summer, also criticised Myrrha for “posing glamorously while exploiting these deaths”. The artist says that Niemeyer never made a public declaration about the episode and that her work is a critique of his silence. S.M.
Brazil and Italy go Camargo crazy to mark artist’s centenary
This year’s centenary of the birth of the Brazilian Expressionist Iberê Camargo (1914-94) has inspired a series of commemorative events. The Fundação Iberê Camargo, which is housed in a building designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira on Porto Alegre’s waterfront, will stage a survey of the artist’s extensive career. The show is due to open in November; its title and closing date were unconfirmed as we went to press. The foundation will also host the premiere of a new documentary about the painter, directed by the Brazilian film-maker Marta Biavaschi, and will launch a new biography of Camargo, published by Cosac Naify. The artist will have three solo shows in Italy next year, at the Museo Marino Marini and the Palazzo Pitti, both in Florence, and the Museo Morandi in Bologna (exhibition titles and dates were unconfirmed as we went to press). A major retrospective of the artist at São Paulo’s Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil closed in July. S.M.