From the sublime to the ridiculous
This is the latest demonstration that the people running Venice have lost all sense of the sublimity of the city in their charge. The area around St Mark's basilica is already dominated by vast advertisements and now, to the side of the church, this hut has appeared, selling grotesque ceramic statuettes. In front, there is a Nativity with more of these frightful figures, just bigger, and a red carpet running all the way round the facade to the Cappella Zen, where the firm that is getting all this advertising, Thun ceramics, has put up a mere €50,000 for the restoration of two smallish wooden statues. When the Cappella Zen was entirely restored in 1984 by the Superintendency for Fine Art with money donated by the US charity Save Venice, nothing like this happened. This latest horror has had the blessing of the mayor, Giorgio Orsoni, and the priests of the Patriarchate. When the Venetians and the world object, they are told to shut up—it's all good money, after all. It seems now that so long as you pay even small sums of money you get the right to do whatever you like in what used to be the "fairy city of the heart".
Pinault's Fischer feast
Eyebrows have been raised at French billionaire François Pinault's decision to launch single-artist exhibitions at his Venetian gallery, Palazzo Grassi, next year. The series of solo exhibitions kicks off in April with a show dedicated to the high-profile Swiss practitioner Urs Fischer. “This exhibition is the first of a series of monograph exhibitions which will be dedicated to major contemporary artists and held either in tandem or alternation with the thematic shows based upon the François Pinault Collection,” says a press statement.
Tis the season for holiday cards, and The Art Newspaper gets its fair share of Christmas post. From galleries, museums and art PRs, our mantlepiece is full of well wishing. To see some of our favourites from the mailbag, go to our online gallery.
Join the zombie hordes in Berlin
More than 100 zombie-like statues have taken over the Deutsche Guggenheim, but before you get out your survival gear and shotgun, the works are part of an installation by Pawel Althamer (until January 16). The Polish artist has "relocated" his father's factory, Almech, from the suburbs of Warsaw to Berlin and has taken casts of the faces of museum staff and visitors, are then mounted on partially pre-created bodies. Among the portraits are those of the Guggenheim’s Nan Trotman and Richard Armstrong, the gallerist Andrzej Przywara, Kasper König, the director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and collectors including Dakis Joannou and Axel Haubrok. Any aspiring undead can apply to "become an artwork!" through the museum's website.
Tate 2012 triennial bites the dust
Eyebrows have been raised at the Tate’s decision to quietly cancel its 2012 triennial, the high-profile exhibition which, since its launch in 2000, has tried its hardest to reflect the latest developments in contemporary art. A Tate spokeswoman says: “Works have started on the Tate Britain Millbank project and as a result we have slightly rejigged and reviewed the rhythm of our programme for next year.” The 2006 triennial, curated by Beatrix Ruf, the director of the Kunsthalle Zurich, received a critical mauling, while the 2009 exhibition was overseen by the French scholar Nicolas Bourriaud, who launched a new -ism for his triennial, “altermodernism”, which apparently filled the void left by postmodernism. Don’t hold your breath for a 2015 triennial…
The girl with the pearl necklace
It is not every day that a piece of jewellery comes on to the market with a provenance that boasts eight kings of Spain and members of the Bonaparte family. The pearl, La Pérégrina, was discovered in the early 16th century in the Gulf of Panama and was given to Mary I of England by Philip II of Spain on their marriage. It was returned to Spain after Mary’s death; Velázquez painted Queen Isabel, consort of Philip IV, wearing it. La Pérégrina was bought at Sotheby’s in 1969 by the late Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth husband, Richard Burton, after he outbid a member of the Spanish royal family. The pearl (included in a necklace, est $2m-$3m) sold for $11,842,500 including buyer's premium, at Christie’s auction of the late Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery, held last night. “Weighing 50 carats and at 200 grains this is the closest to perfection a pearl can get,” says Rahul Kadakia, the head of jewellery for Christie’s America.
Explosions in the sky
Daytime fireworks may sound, at first, like a damp squib, but Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang shows that they can be just as spectacular as the more common nightly versions. For the opening of his exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar last week he created a massive, oooh and aaaaah inducing “explosion event” that painted the sky in coloured smoke. As the museum described it, the computer-controlled blasts create patterns that suddenly “appear like drops of ink splattered across the sky”. A video of the installation has been uploaded to YouTube and makes us wish Cai would design our next Fourth of July display.
Emin empire: the retail phase
Is there no pie Tracey Emin doesn’t have her finger in? The artist-provocateur has now moved into retail, opening a shop in Spitalfields, east London, that sells limited edition prints, limited edition works and other multiples by the artist (pictured, her "Mouse Sanctions Bag", from her 2008 retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh). The emporium has the rather grand sounding name Emin International…watch out John Lewis.
New York, Chicago-style
Tonight the Art Institute of Chicago will bring a little bit of New York to the Windy City when it projects Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire (above) on the façade of the nearby Aon Center. Shot over six hours, but stretched to eight, the video of the Empire State Building will be shown on the upper stories of the high-rise, in this, its first outdoor presentation in the US. “The chance to do this in the hometown of the skyscraper was just too good to pass up,” says Matthew Witkovsky, the curator of the corresponding show, “Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964-1977”, which will run from 13 December 2011 to 11 March 2012. Chicagoans will certainly be in a New York state of mind this evening.
Sign of the times
The High Line just got a little greener. A new billboard by artist John Baldessari sits at the corner of Tenth Avenue and 18th Street and it screams money. Featuring the never-circulated $100,000 bill, this piece of aspirational art is entitled The First $100,000 I Ever Made. Forty-two thousand of these rare bills were printed during the Great Depression. The Woodrow Wilson-bedecked bill emerges now as the US struggles to overcome a not-so-great recession. The piece, which begins the newly launched High Line Billboard series, will be on view until 30 December 2011.
The best of 2011
It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Ai Weiwei was arrested, the September 11 Memorial opened in New York, a massive forgery ring was uncovered in Germany, and the Andy Warhol authentication board was dissolved, to name just a few art world headlines. The Art Newspaper is working on a roundup of the main events of 2011, and we’re asking our readers to share what they think were the best and worst events, works of art or exhibitions of this year. You can email your picks to nyoffice [at] theartnewspaper.com, or submit them online as a comment.
ABMB no longer does its “Art Loves Music” performances on the beach—remember Iggy Pop? The New York Dolls?—but it doesn’t really need to because clearly music now loves art. On Thursday night, Perrier sponsored Spotify’s “Music Loves Art” party at Ricochet Lounge, with sets by Theophilus London and Nas, who, in the middle of a rousing performance of “Made You Look”, was moved to create a painting, which sold in short order for $14,000, with the proceeds going to charity, as artists like Rashid Johnson looked on. And Friday night, P. Diddy, Usher and Mary J. Blige hosted a 29th birthday bash for producer Rico Love at Vic & Angelo’s in South Beach, then Diddy, left, with artist Damien Hirst, moved on to a dinner at the W Hotel hosted by dealer Andy Valmorbida and music mogul Jimmy Iovine, who has worked with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, and signed Lady Gaga. He has also worked on a book project with artist Raphael Mazzucco, who was being honoured at the dinner.
Welcome to Miami
Promoting an art fair is all about seizing opportunities. A few nights ago, Nick Korniloff, the director of Art Miami, was waiting for a table at Soho House. He was about to be seated when actor Will Smith, right, breezed in and was given the table. Korniloff approached the “I Am Legend” star. “I went up to him and said, ‘You just got my table. Here’s my business card. Do me a favour, come to my art fair tomorrow.’” The next day, Smith showed up at Art Miami. “He’s a stand-up guy,” said Korniloff. Maybe Smith brought the fair good luck: on the day he visited, Galerie Michael Schultz (A19) sold an abstract Gerhard Richter painting for $1.6m.
A funny thing happened on the way to the symphony
Art Basel Miami Beach celebrated its tenth anniversary last night with an evening of performance at Frank Gehry’s New World Symphony theatre. Staged by RoseLee Goldberg’s Performa biennial, the evening included acts such as the X Patsys—Barbara Sukowa, Robert Longo and John Kessler—who specialise in German cabaret and Patsy Cline covers. While the Performa Orchestra of Futurist Noise Intoners was warming up in the theatre, another room had been set up to mimic a comedy club. As the three artists/comedians in the act “Perform Ha!”—Reggie Watts (with voluminous afro), Bedwyr Williams (dressed as a Methodist preacher) and Jibz Cameron, aka Dynasty Handbag (wearing a Miami-inspired outfit featuring garish makeup, a fluorescent pink cap and a swim suit)—were preparing for their set, we asked them what it was that they found funny about ABMB. “The couples,” said Williams, “their height and age differentials.”
Although the Whitney Museum hasn’t released the list for its biennial, which opens in March, names have been leaking out for a few weeks. One is Joanna Malinowska, an artist who shows with the New York gallery Canada. Malinowska’s work was a conversation starter at the Nada fair yesterday, as it is a standard washing machine, plugged into the wall and set to the spin cycle. Spinning around inside it—you have to trust the artist on this one, because she discourages opening the lid—is, says a label: “a tiny piece of ceramics from Cahuachi piramides… reindeer moss, a handful of nothing collected in darkness (after 1973 performance ‘10 Minutes’ by Zbigniew Werpachowski), water from lake Titicaca, Cartesian doubt, dead hare that knows a lot about art, chopped hemlock, Gottfried Leibniz’s Discours de métaphysique, Bronislaw Malinowski’s Sex and Repression in Savage Society.” And we’ve learned that she’s is taking just as unexpected an approach to the biennial, by donating her page of the catalogue to Leonard Peltier, the Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), who has been imprisoned since the late 70s on the charge of shooting two FBI agents, and who makes paintings. Peltier (from his cell) and his lawyers have been in frequent touch with Canada; he has not yet determined precisely how he will use the page.
Amid the somewhat staid and static sculpture-park format of Art Public, a refreshingly active—and indeed activist—element is provided by Andrea Bowers and Olga Koumoundouros. As well as providing a showcase for local groups, such as Take Back the Land, the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Pridelines Youth Services, their kiosk also took their anti-corporate message to art fair visitors by dispensing T-shirts and posters to the preview crowd. Let’s hope that the business-minded art collectors who were happily foraging for shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “I Believe in Robin Hood” and “99%”, continue to endorse these sentiments when they return to their offices and boardrooms next week.
Art at the tip of your finger
The Art Newspaper felt very pampered indeed yesterday when we were first in the line for a free manicure courtesy of Chicago artist Dzine, who transformed a hotel room at the Standard hotel into the Imperial Nail Salon. Instead of your ordinary spa, the artist created an exact replica of his parents’ living room complete with family photos and the house's number plaque. Dzine said his mum, who ran her own nail business out of their home, had no problem when he asked to borrow the family sofa and photographs, but when he said he needed his dad’s prized sculpture, his father cried: “You never said you wanted the Ponce de Leon!” The explorer looked right at home though, and the family movies and Spanish music created a cozy atmosphere, where visitors could sit and gab while having a selection of baroquely bejewelled creations—some featuring silver skulls, bonsai trees and $100 bills—applied to their hands. We picked a striking gold dragon, which Dzine said was “one of his favourites”. One of ours, too.