Ai Weiwei looks to Taiwan
Expect political fireworks in 2011 with plans by controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to mount an exhibition at Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan from October, giving the Chinese authorities another headache, no doubt. Headline-hitting Ai Weiwei, whose sunflower seeds installation is currently wowing the crowds at Tate Modern in London, was reportedly barred from leaving China earlier this month while the artist's studio in Shanghai is set to be demolished by the Chinese government.
Orton's saucy scribblings inspire UK sculptor
Saucy messages left by the maverick late playwright Joe Orton in a series of library books are the basis of an exhibition to be held next month at Ancient and Modern Gallery in London’s East End. Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell defaced the covers and inside flaps of publications housed at Essex Road library, adding cheeky blurbs and eyebrow-raising imagery (a volume of poems by John Betjeman was returned with a new jacket showing a scantily clad, heavily tattooed middle-aged man); straitlaced middle-class library members were the target of the duo’s campaign. The couple also purloined 1,653 plates from art history books which they turned into a fetching collage that adorned their Islington flat. A selection of the vandalised covers go on show alongside new work by UK sculptor Adam Gillam who is inspired by the mischievous pair.
Check in at the new Museum of Rome
Rome city council is being very coy as to whether a 30-bedroom luxury hotel will form part of a major new archaeological museum to be built in the capital by 2015. The so-called Museum of Rome, to be sited in the Via dei Cerchi next to the Colosseum, has been on the drawing board for over two years and should house some of the city’s most striking artefacts such as a gymnasium built by Emperor Nero (37-68AD), discovered on Corso Vittorio in 2009. But our enquiries to the council drew a blank which is puzzling as Umberto Croppi, a city culture official, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: “The museum will have not only the usual activities of a museum but also the innovative plan of a small quality hotel.”
Smithsonian row snowballs
The Smithsonian censorship saga rumbles on...Jim Hedges, a hedge-fund specialist and art aficionado, has written to Martin Sullivan, director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, requesting that his loaned work "Untitled, Self-Portrait" by Jack Pierson be removed from the Hide/Seek NPG exhibition "until such time as the David Wojnarowicz video is reinstated in its full unedited version". Wojnarowicz's piece, A Fire in My Belly, shows a crucifix covered with ants; it was withdrawn following protests by a group of Republican congressmen and the Catholic League. "If you have lent works to the 'Hide/Seek' show, please consider pulling your work from the National Portrait Gallery unless the institutional censorship of the show is corrected," urges Hedges. The Andy Warhol Foundation has also threatened to cut its funding to the Smithsonian if the work is not reinstated.
Give us your cash in Clickistan, says the Whitney
If you feel like indulging in a bit of online game-playing, and, at the same time, would like to shell out for the Whitney Museum in New York, then indulge in the Clickistan, a museum web game that "invents its own territory—ruled by the click—and celebrates the pixel" (notes the press blurb). Players enter Clickistan (catchy name) and, in a canny move, can play a few levels before being asked to make a $1 donation to the Whitney’s Annual Fund. Donating cash means you can continue to more advanced levels. Digital artists Ubermorgen.com are behind the cheeky 21st-century fundraising ruse. To play, go to: http://whitney.org/Membership/AnnualFund
Emin pushes the envelope
What better way to celebrate Christmas than with a writing paper and matching envelope set designed by none other than Tracey Emin? Two designs by the Brit artist are available through the Posted company, with Emin's "bird on a branch" or "reclining figure" drawing embossed on the striking stationery (the set comes in a jaunty custom made folder with a ribbon tie, stitched with Tracey’s signature. And the fee for Emin's natty notepaper? £50.00). Artists Jane Simpson and Georgie Hopton have also put pen to paper (literally), providing designs for writing materials. Posted is a temporary exhibition space housed in a former post office in east london that presents a series of exhibitions, performances, and workshops celebrating (yes, you guessed it) the UK's postal history and heritage (for US readers that means the mail). www.postedprojects.co.uk
Uli Sigg's panda purchase
There are countless copies of the Venus de Milo, but a contemporary art collector has just acquired an exceptional one. As Le Monde and Agence France-Presse report, the Swiss collector Uli Sigg––also the former Swiss ambassador to China––acquired a Venus de Milo made of panda excrement. The work––conceived by the Chinese artist Zhu Cheng and executed by children from the Sichaun province––was sold to Sigg for $46,000. It’s not the first time that animal excrement has been turned into a work of art or that Sigg has been involved with a controversial work. During the exhibition of his collection in Bern in 2001, the collector unleashed a scandal by showing a work by the artist Xiao Yu, who combined the body of a seagull with the head of fetus in formol.
Who says soap operas (think Ena Sharples and Alexis Carrington) aren't a work of art? Artist Erica Eyres looks to the mother of all TV soap sagas in her next show at the Rokeby Gallery in London in January, basing her new film on the season 8 finale of Dallas when Pam Ewing awakes to find that all recent events, starting with the death of her husband Bobby, were just a dream. "The casting of adolescents as the characters of Dallas fuses recognition with strangeness and estranges the familiar. Awkward, embarrassed and vivacious, the child actors function in distancing the viewer and preventing full identification with the characters," notes the quirky press blurb. Southfork will never be the same again.
Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London may well have lost one chief curator with an august name - but it has gained another with the same moniker. Xavier Salomon (above left), appointed Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2009, becomes curator of Southern Baroque Paintings in January at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But another Xavier is on the horizon. Xavier Bray (above right), formerly a curator at London's National Gallery, will replace Dr Salomon (no excuses for forgetting the new boy's name then).
Play it again Sam
Starting today, the US representatives at next year's Venice Biennale, Puerto Rico-based artists Allora & Calzadilla, are staging their weirdly wonderful piano performance piece Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy, No. 1 in MoMA’s main atrium. Acquired by the museum in 2009, this is the first time the work is being publicly performed and is part of MoMA and PS1 maestro Klaus Biesenbach’s “Performance Exhibition Series”. The work consists of a piano with a hole cut through the centre of it, through which a contortionist pianist plays Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony upside-down and backwards, all while waltzing around the gallery. The performances started at 11:30 this morning, and will continue every hour, five times a day until 10 January.
Jack's Christmas twist
Jack Vettriano, painter of erotic couples, has finally received recognition—with Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond commissioning a picture for his official Christmas card. Let’s Twist Again depicts an unusually demure young woman (for a Vettriano) and an elegant gentleman at what appears to be a smart office party. Vettriano, who has been (possibly unfairly) shunned by the art establishment, is unrepresented in the collections of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Tate. He told The Art Newspaper that the Christmas card represents a “real honour”. It came after Vettriano met Salmond at his exhibition in Kirkcaldy last March. When the artist was commissioned, he warned the first minister not to expect “a snowy landscape”. Let’s Twist Again hung in the National Gallery of Scotland for a few hours during the evening launch on 6 December, with Vettriano describing the occasion in its hallowed premises as just “a one-night stand”. The painting will be auctioned for charity and further money will be raised by the sale of limited-edition prints.
That’s why birds do it, bees do it…
Dolphins do it every which way, spiders enjoy a bit of bondage, and Noah’s Ark must have been a menagerie of hermaphrodites, transgenders and homosexuals. Or so film grand dame Isabella Rossellini reveals in her five most recent short films which she premiered at the Wolfsonian Museum on Friday night. Part of “Seduce Me” and “Green Porno”, a saucy series on the sex lives of animals, the videos feature crafty sets and costumes designed by artists Andy Byers and Rick Gilbert, who have also tarted up the Wolfsonian with their paper craft installation. Byers said working with Rossellini was a treat. “She let me do what I wanted. I’d say, I want to put you in a leotard or a silly hat, and she’d say, great. I’d say, we need to plug a vagina with something, let’s use a cork, and she’d say, yes, perfect.”
Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton swept into town on Friday to help present the new Pringle of Scotland clothing creations designed not only by herself but a host of high-profile artists such as Stephen Sutcliffe and Ryan McGinley (pictured along with Ms Swinton and Pringle creative director Clare Waight Keller). The fashionista project was devised in conjunction with the Serpentine Gallery in London whose education programmes are supported by Pringle. Swinton explained how the stalwart Scottish clothing company appealed to dizzingly diverse audiences, from golfers to art school students. So what makes a work of art great? "The spirit in which it's made," pondered the movie star, who described her Miami jaunt as "knitwear in a hot, hot place—that sounds like a Fassbinder film title!"
Dress code: birthday suits
Expect hot bods this weekend at the Standard Hotel where independent curator Neville Wakefield is mounting an event charmingly entitled “The Nude is Muse”. A plethora of big-name artists, including Vanessa Beecroft, will ruminate on boobs and bottoms in an event sponsored by (wait for it) Playboy. Alas, bunny girls will apparently not be in attendance. According to a Craigslist posting seeking “ten girls and guys who are comfortable with nudity”, the artists will “paint and adorn each model as living paintings”. We asked artist Terence Koh about his project plans for the evening, only to receive this intriguing missive via Facebook: "Dear Mr Neville Wakefield. May I suggest finding a model that looks in physic as close to Michelangelo's David as possible; may I suggest that we find a live model that has the biggest, most gigantic uncut penis possible, and we can paint just this mouth-gaping penis all white, thus changing history forever." Don't hold back Terence.
Mickey and the phantom menace
Mr Brainwash has arrived, hence Mickey Mouse and Star Wars stormtroopers guarding the building on the corner of Collins Avenue and 21st Street. Part of the street artist's pop-up exhibition, “Under Construction” (due to run until January), the show is advertised by a highway incident-style sign much to the chagrin of those in charge of traffic management in Miami Beach. Officials want the faux-road sign removed in double quick time. “They will never stop me,” declared Mr Brainwash. “I'm with the people and the people have the power.” This is an artist who wields clout. He convinced the empty building's owner to discount the rent, which ain't cheap on SoBe.
The question on everyone’s lips at Art Basel Miami Beach must be: “Who’s got the best ass: celebutante Kim Kardashian or Bert Rodriguez?” Wait, Bert who? Rodriguez is the Miami artist who parodied Kardashian’s recent spread in W magazine’s “Art Issue”. She posed in the buff, covered in silver paint, as did Rodriguez for the Miami New Times. The photos soon went viral and popular blog The Huffington Post is polling readers to choose who looks best. Bert is surprised (though we’re not) that he’s just behind Kim in the survey. Unfazed by the hoo-hah, he dismissed the fuss as “this dumb picture of me next to her looking perfect”, while signing posters of his shimmering torso at Fred Snitzer’s stand (K4). If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
An Art Basel Miami Beach fairgoer was so enthralled with a Robert Rauschenberg painting at Faurschou (A4) that he failed to spot the pile of Ai Weiwei’s ceramic sunflower seeds sitting in front of the painting, kicking the tiny seeds across the floor. “Who can blame them? It’s a great Rauschenberg,” one said. Let’s hope the gallery isn’t forced to cordon off Sunflower Seeds as in London’s Tate Modern. Ai’s latest artwork is meant to be interactive, after all.
SoBe gold standard
The considerate city officials of Miami apparently keep the lighting low on the beach for fear of upsetting the sea turtles, but when Metric took the stage last night at Art Loves Music, the seaborne terrapins were no doubt perturbed by the strobes and floodlighting cast from the stage. The gold-laméd lead singer, Emily Haines, got the art crowd grooving on the sand despite the chill in the air and looming clouds. The screaming throng could be heard on Collins Avenue as one cheeky audience member dared to climb onstage and dived into the masses below. ABMB co-director Marc Spiegler changed from his fair daywear into a hipper beach outfit to join in on the fun and get down to the Indy pop beats.
Art Basel Miami Beach has always drawn celebrities like moths to a flame, and yesterday’s vernissage was no exception. Visitors included George Hamilton and fellow film star Danny Glover, who caused much mirth at Richard Gray gallery (D12) when he pointed at a Richard Prince piece, The Black Panthers, 1993, which shows the legendary 1960s militants. Glover was overheard saying: “I knew some of those guys!”
A rumble felt by fair goers in the Art Nova section of Art Basel Miami Beach yesterday turned out to be emanating from Israeli artist Naama Tsabar’s “Untitled (Speaker Wall Gold)”, 2010, a monolithic, interactive wall of sound at Tel Aviv-based Dvir Gallery (N8). “I turned the bass up,” explained the gallerist Yotam Shalit-Intrator as a heavy drone filled the stand. “It’s the first day so we wanted to encourage people to interact,” he said. Tsabar is one of the three young Israeli artists chosen by fellow artist Rirkrit Tiravanija for an exhibition in the Design District, where she’ll be performing on one of her Siamese double basses tonight at 9pm.
Dealer Tracy Williams (N44) was hard at work with her assistant in the run up to the fair, creating paper boats from torn-out pages of a 1969 set of Encyclopaedia Britannica. The boats are for one of the works on her booth, conceived by Malaysian artist Simryn Gill, who couldn’t make it to the event. Paper Boats consists of a heap of vessels–from canoes to barges–piled on a table-top. So how are the Encyclopaedia Britannica pages choosen? “We select them,” said Williams, ripping out “Insanity” from a tome and folding up another example.
Franco and Mitzie
Mitzie Verne, the indefatigable founder of the Verne Gallery, Cleveland, was in a typically bright and breezy mood at yesterday's preview breakfast of Ink, the contemporary print fair at the Dorchester Hotel, Miami Beach. She had every reason to be: this week she learned that her grandson, the actor James Franco, is going to co-host the Academy Awards next year. Last year Franco was able to squeeze in a visit to Art Basel Miami Beach. But this year's he's preoccupied promoting his latest movie, 127 Hours. Mitzi isn't short of talented grandsons during fair week though: Brian Verne, who is at Ink, recently filmed some of the Japanese printmakers the gallery represents for its website.
What would Salvador Dalí have made of Art Basel Miami Beach? Miami collector Rosa de la Cruz ponders the question as a 1955 portrait by the Spanish surrealist of her mother-in-law, Dolores Suero Falla, takes centre stage in the show “Anchored in Surrealism” which opens in the Cruzs’ Miami space this week. She stresses how Dalí would have savoured his moment in the Florida sun. “He’s so 21st century,” she ruminates, adding that the Vermeer-inspired piece looks dandy alongside Ugo Rondinone's 52 mirrored windows (Clockwork for Oracles, 2008). The striking Dalí has, until now, been housed at de la Cruz residences in Havana, New York, Madrid and Washington, DC; it returns to the US capital from next March for a four-month stint at the National Portrait Gallery.
Sexy South Beach
Visitors in town for Art Basel are sure to take their fair share of taxis this week, so the adverts for the World Erotic Art Museum that have been spotted on numerous yellow cabs around Miami Beach are perfectly timed to reach the more adventurous art lover. Founded in 2006 by the motherly Naomi Wilzig, who appears in the adverts, the South Beach museum houses “the largest collection of erotic art in America” according to its website, amassed by Wilzig over the past 14 years, after her son prompted the collection’s focus by asking her to find “a few conversation pieces” for his bachelor pad. The museum has been embraced by Miami’s community, and was even honoured this year by the city’s mayor, who proclaimed 16 October “World Erotic Art Museum Day”.
Viva la diva
A Haitian gospel choir and “interpretive” dancers greeted a throng of hip visitors at North Miami MoCA last night to help launch Bruce Weber’s show of photographs featuring Miami’s Haitian community. But did the locals recognise the legend in their midst? “Oh god, no!”, he replied. “I hope not.” Nearby, artist Jonathan Meese (pictured) was holding court at the opening of his solo show there. “Miami is totally important as a revolutionary outpost of my art dictatorship,” he boldly declared. Such talk of world domination gave way to giggles as he recalled his recent moment on stage in a version of Wagner’s “Parsifal”. Was he a tenor or bass? “I was just screaming: that is my music,” he guffawed.
Sunny side up
The great and the good of Miami’s art scene turned out yesterday for the much anticipated groundbreaking of Miami Art Museum’s (MAM) Herzog and de Meuron-designed building set to open in downtown Bicentennial Park by 2013. The chairman of the board, Aaron Podhurst, delivered a rousing welcome speech. “The new museum will rival Sydney Opera House,” he declared. Man of the moment, newly appointed MAM director Thomas Collins, looked distinguished in his Blues Brothers shades, but how does his freckled, Irish-American skin withstand the Florida sunshine? “When I came to Miami for my first interview, I was driven around in a convertible,” notes Collins. “The result? I had to go back to New York with a peeling head.”