Dictator moves on in Mexico
A sculpture of the late head of state of Azerbaijan given to Mexico City and unveiled last August, which led to diplomatic kerfuffle because locals objected to a dictator on their doorstep, was removed overnight last weekend amid tight security. The marble and bronze work of Heydar Aliyev by the Baku-based artist Nadir Aliyev (no relation) awaits a new, less contentious site than the Friendship Park in Reforma, Mexico City's main thoroughfare.
Manet without the multitude
Blockbuster exhibitions bring in the crowds but actually seeing the works on display in a jostling throng requires stamina, dexterity and, more often than not, a long neck. The Royal Academy of Arts in London (RA) has, however, hit upon a solution to help very keen visitors see its packed-out "Manet, Portraying Life" show (until 14 April). "The RA has organised a series of exclusive Sunday evening viewings in March and April, to allow visitors to see the exhibition without the crowds," says a press statement. The usual full-price admission fee is £15. But for the princely sum of £30, visitors to the "exclusive Sunday" event get to see the show (minus the masses), along with a drink in the John Madjeski Fine rooms and a hand-held multimedia guide narrated by curator MaryAnn Stevens.
Number's up at Tate
Tate Britain has quietly abolished room numbers—and the idea is do without them even after the grand reopening in May, following a major refurbishment. One Tate officer told us that numbers are regarded as “unfriendly”. This may seem a minor point, but if one asks at the information desk where to find Constable’s Flatford Mill, 1816-17, it is much easier being directed to a sequential room number, rather than searching for the “1810” gallery. More seriously, in an emergency, such as a visitor fainting, it is certainly simpler to call for assistance in a clearly numbered room. Tate staff will continue to have their own “secret” numbers for the galleries, but these will not be marked in the rooms or on maps. A Tate spokeswoman confirms that the plan is to do away with public numbers, replacing them with a new “way-finding system”, based on chronology. But, she adds, no final decision has been made.
The audacious overnight robbery of Barbara Hepworth's monumental 1969 sculpture, Two Forms (Divided Circle), from Dulwich Park, south London, late 2011, made headline news. The non-profit London-based organisation, the Contemporary Art Society (CAS), has now been asked by Southwark Council to find a replacement. "This will involve four artists being shortlisted to develop concept proposals over the next few months, [which will be] publicly exhibited around June prior to selection of the work to be commissioned," a CAS spokesman says. The Hepworth piece was insured for £500,000.
Finding inauguration inspiration through Holbein
It takes a lot to outshine Aretha Franklin in the category of eye-catching inauguration headwear, but the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia managed it yesterday with a striking chapeau that got everyone’s attention. Senator Claire McCaskill called the topper “really weird” on her Twitter feed, while the New York Daily News in classic form called it a “velvety cap that looked like a beret on steroids”. According to New Yorker magazine: “It turns out the hat had been a gift of the St Thomas More Society, in Richmond, Virginia—a replica of the one worn by More in the portrait by Hans Holbein. More, as readers of history and fans of “A Man for All Seasons” and “Wolf Hall” will recall, was the principled opponent of the Protestant Reformation who lost his head (and hat) after giving Henry VIII problems over Anne Boleyn. What the hat says about the way Scalia will vote on gay marriage and affirmative action later this year is not known. But we may guess.” It's a head-scratcher.
Putting on a show in Pantin
The Austrian dealer Thaddaeus Ropac has ambitious plans for his mighty new gallery located in Pantin, north east Paris. The former heating systems factory has been transformed into a new cathedral of art comprising four adjoining exhibition halls, each about 36m long. A show of works by Anselm Kiefer inaugurated the gargantuan space last autumn but Ropac is thinking big(ger) with plans to bring together composers from the nearby Philharmonie de Paris concert venue and some of his artists, according to Wallpaper magazine. Performance pieces by leading artists are planned for a separate venue on the Pantin site dedicated to performance art: an opera by the wunderkind artist Terence Koh is rumoured to be in the pipeline along with a recreation of the “living sculptures” work by Gilbert & George. Austrian artist Erwin Wurm will also unveil a new work in the performance space.
Angel of Death rides through Brooklyn
Among the memorable objects on show in the Brooklyn Museum's gallery, "Life, Death and Transformation", which opened this weekend, is a memento mori from Taos, New Mexico. A far from angelic looking angel rides in a Death Cart, bow and arrow at the ready. She sits in a wagon that is a miniature version of a float used in Easter processions by a devotional society called Los Hermano Penitentes (the penitent brotherhood). Their devotions became so extreme—self-flagellation by adults and children with a mock crucifixion staged for good measure—that they incurred the disapproval of the Church authorities and were made to desist, in public at least, says Nancy Rosoff, a co-curator of the gallery.
The other side of Armstrong
Oprah had a lot to ask the former champion, now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong about his (artificially enhanced) sporting achievements. The focus on his take-no-prisoners approach to those who crossed him on his way to the top left little time to explore his aesthetic interests. So here is a reminder of his taste in art, a purchase he made at the Scope art fair in New York in 2008. Armstrong paid $20,000 for this life-size wooden sculpture at ADA gallery: Morgan Herrin’s Untitled, 2008.
As seen on TV
The ambitious commercial digital art venture, s[edition], launched in 2011 by Harry Blain of London’s Blain Southern gallery, is still fizzing along. Artists such as Damien Hirst and Shepard Fairey have created limited edition pieces for the project; the works are available to buy and download for display on iPads and plasma screens, with prices ranging from £5 to £1,000 (the works can now be resold via the website). The Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Stavanger Museum in Norway have purchased items from the online platform. In a canny move, meanwhile, s[edition] has struck a deal with Samsung which means that the Korean company’s latest Smart TVs will carry the s[edition] app, allowing owners to display their art collections on screen.
Bäckström is the people's choice
A panel of esteemed judges chose Teresa Margolles as the winner of the prestigious £40,000 Artes Mundi prize but the public had a different idea, backing instead the Swedish artist Miriam Bäckström in an online poll. Bäckström's striking works no doubt left a lasting impression on visitors to the recent Artes Mundi 5 exhibition held at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff. Smile as if we have already won, a large-scale tapestry, was produced specifically for the show but Bäckström's performance piece, Motherfucker—which "challenges the sphere of the public and the personal through a dramatic performance of a couple’s dialogue and interaction", according to a press statement—must have stopped people in their tracks. Bank of America Merrill Lynch was the principal sponsor of the Artes Mundi 5 exhibition and prize.
Detroit silver collection shines on
Visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) eager to feast their eyes on American colonial-era sugar bowls and drinking vessels are in luck: a collection of 59 silver works, which the museum had been keeping in storage for the past ten years, is due to be back on display on 17 January. The objects, including 17 shining examples from the workshop of the American patriot and silversmith Paul Revere, have been in storage since 2002, when a renovation of the museum’s building forced a closure of its American colonial galleries. Recent funding from the Americana Foundation—and a healthy measure of elbow grease no doubt—has allowed museum staff to primp and polish the collection, which will be on display indefinitely.
A bloody mess averted
The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, Denmark, had to remove Marc Quinn’s frozen sculpture Self 2, 1996, from the exhibition “Self-portrait” (until 13 January) to avoid a mess. The work—a portrait of Quinn’s head made from the artist’s own blood—was in danger of melting when the cooling unit within the display case failed. “It was moved to a normal freezer, bought [especially] for [the piece],” says Susanne Hartz, a spokeswoman for the museum. The British artist began the “Self” series in 1991. He makes a new self-portrait every five years using nine pints of his own blood. —C.Bf.
Cooking with Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana Museum Estate, eager to lure a new generation of tourists with interactive exhibitions and events, has launched a series of cooking classes based on recipes from the family of the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina. While Tolstoy’s marriage was hardly a domestic idyll, Yasnaya Polyana was a model of pre-revolutionary estate life. His wife, Sofia Andreevna, transcribed his works, bore him 13 children and was a domestic goddess at managing the household and kitchen (Move over Martha Stewart). Her recipes are being recreated in the classes, conducted at the museum’s hotel restaurant Dvoryanskaya Usadba (Nest of Gentry) by the executive chef Nikolai Muraviev. The project, including exhibitions, tours and an iPhone app of Mrs Tolstoy’s recipes, is being funded by the Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin’s charitable foundation and is named after sweet “Anke pie”, a recipe passed down by Sofia’s mother from the family physician Dr Anke and served at Tolstoy family gatherings. At the first class, held in December, a tee-shirt-clad chef Muraviev whipped up spaghetti pomme d’amour and mushroom julienne. S.K.
The women behind the Monuments Men
George Clooney has assembled an all-star cast for The Monument Men. Clooney, Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett—who will play Rose Valland (pictured), the French conservator and member of the Resistance—are heading to Germany to begin filming the story of how looted art was tracked down and saved during the Second World War. While Valland’s role has been recognised on the silver screen before (a character called “Mlle Villard” appears in the 1964 movie The Train), the role of the other women behind the Monument Men has largely gone unsung by Hollywood. Helen Clay Frick mobilised the Frick Art Reference Library, which she was instrumental in creating at the Frick Collection in New York. And the library's staff, many of whom were women, co-ordinated the intelligence that was vital to those hunting for Europe’s cultural treasures as the rapacious Nazis retreated.
A little paint goes a long way in the Rijksmuseum
The Turner prize-winning artist Richard Wright put the finishing touches last month to a starry site-specific work at the Rijksmuseum, the Amsterdam institution’s director Wim Pijbes has revealed. Pijbes was impressed with how little paint—just one small pot—Wright needed to create the large-scale work on the ceiling in two rooms to the right and left of where Rembrandt’s The Night Watch will hang. Pijbes was in London to talk about the re-opening of the museum on 13 April, after its ten-year-long refurb. “We are on schedule,” he reassured the guests at a reception last night (8 January) hosted by the Dutch ambassador to London.
Frank goes fishing
“The fish is a perfect form,” says Frank Gehry
in the opening of a press release announcing an exhibition of the architect’s piscine sculptures, showing concurrently at Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles and in Paris. Gehry's fascination with the life aquatic is not that surprising when one considers the wave-like forms of some of his most famous buildings—the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (1997) and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2003). But the fish has been a favourite figure for Frank since the 1980s, when he was commissioned by the Formica Corporation to create objects from their new plastic laminate ColorCore. “After accidentally shattering a piece of it while working, he was inspired by the shards, which reminded him of fish scales. The first Fish Lamps, which were fabricated between 1984 and 1986, employed wire armatures molded into fish shapes, onto which shards of ColorCore are individually glued,” the press release says.
Gehry recently revisited these early designs and began working on a new series of lamps. But what kind of fish has the most artistic form? The answer is as clear as a freshwater stream: Pollock.
Where will Craig Robins build his (delayed) museum?
What happened to the lavish private museum planned by the Miami developer Craig Robins, announced in 2008? The entrepreneur says that he still plans to open his own space in Miami, but it’s not clear whether the institution will be located in the city’s Design District, as planned. Designed by the Spanish architects Abalos and Herreros, the museum was initially scheduled to open by January 2012. “[Craig Robins] can confirm that [his] Collecting Building is still planned and will be located in Miami, although no specific address has been confirmed,” says a project spokesman. The private museum will exhibit selections from Robins’s 1,000-strong collection, which includes works by John Baldessari and Kehinde Wiley.
Korean-American exchange with a difference
Sino-American museum relations took a decidedly friendly turn at the end of 2012 when two delegations of leading US museum directors travelled to Shanghai and Beijing to meet their counterparts and discuss exchange exhibitions among other things. But the future isn't all about China and America. US art will travel to South Korea and in exchange Korean art will be coming to America as never before. “Art Across America” is the first, in-depth survey of American paintings and decorative art to be seen in Korea. Drawn from the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Terra Foundation, the show is due to open at the National Museum of Korea, in Seoul, on 4 February (until May 19) before heading to the Daejeon Museum of Art. Meanwhile, "The Art of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910", is the working title of the first major exhibition of cultural heritage of the world’s longest-ruling, and for centuries somewhat reclusive, Confucian dynasty. Featuring works from the collection of the National Museum of Korea, the show is due to open in Philadelphia in March 2014 before travelling to Los Angeles and Houston.
The FBI always gets its artist
The FBI is watching: when an eagle-eyed agent spotted the Israeli-born artist Omer Fast and his production team were rather too interested in speaking to someone operating military drones, the FBI tracked down the artist's producer at home in Los Angeles. "We were told to stop what we were doing and threatened in suggestive, spy-movie language," Fast tells Photoworks magazine in an interview with Eyal Weizman, the director of Goldsmiths College's Centre for Research Architecture in London. The desist-and-back-off call came as a result of the artist's anonymous ad on craigslist, Fast believes. "After the call, our contacts went dead" with the exception of one very spooked "bona-fide sensor operator". An in-depth interview with the deep-throat source provided the background information for Fast's cinematic 2011 digital-film work 5000 Feet is the Best.