Lift off for Shepard's space design
The artist Shepard Fairey goes into orbit later this year (so to speak). The street artist, known for his ubiquitous Hope poster of Barack Obama, has been commissioned by the Center of Advancement of Science in Space to design a mission patch for its ARK1 investigations project at the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station. The mission will run from September 2013 to March 2014. Fairey said in a video statement released by CASIS that "the idea of doing something that is actually going to go into space and be part of exploring new technology that is unknown, I think that even just tangentially, is an amazing thing to be connected to." And what about the design itself? We like its retro feel and no-nonsense composition. "The patch design was so small, you need to simplify the elements," Fairey added.
Happy feet in Florence
The weight of the history contained in Florence’s museums, from the Uffizi to the Gallerie dell'Accademia—not to mention Michelangelo’s David, the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens—occasionally proves too much for over-enthusiastic visitors, caught unawares by the back-to-back procession of Renaissance masterpieces. Thankfully, the Gucci Museo is providing a welcome respite by opening the “Loafer Room”, an exhibition dedicated to the story of the iconic Gucci horsebit loafer, which are 60 years old this month and have been worn by Madonna, Brad Pitt, Jodie Foster and Dustin Hoffman, et al. The museum is admirably donating half of all ticket sales for the exhibition (until November) to help restore some of the city’s “other” works of art. Who would have thought that footwear could save Italy’s treasures, but then again, Diego Della Valle, the shoe magnate, is stumping up €25m to restore the Colosseum.
It's an old-fashioned religious revival
Let’s face it: museum-goers are swayed by the promise of big names and a masterpiece or two on an exhibition poster. Artists such as Van Gogh, Vermeer, Basquiat and Picasso, or shows with “treasures” in their titles, are likely to entice a large number of visitors who want the biggest bang for their buck. Every now and again, however, there is a “sleeper” that is a hit—an exhibition that defies the tried-and-tested marketing formula by pulling in the crowds without the benefit of the hype that comes with a headliner. The National Gallery in London pulled off a coup in 2009 with “The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600-1700”, an exhibition that featured a selection of paintings and hyperrealistic wood sculptures. Speaking before the show opened, the curator of the exhibition, Xavier Bray said that the gallery did not expect high visitor figures. However, by the time the show closed in January 2010, 1,072 people a day had come to admire the eerily realistic and emotive sculptures alongside paintings by the likes of Zurbarán and Velázquez. When the exhibition travelled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, it was seen by around 900 visitors a day.
Norman Foster, the curator
The high-profile UK architect Norman Foster is turning to curating, for a show in Nîmes. “Moving: Norman Foster on Art” opens at the Musée d’art contemporain on 3 May. Foster should feel at home, since it will be in one of his own buildings: the Carré d’Art, a glass box built 20 years ago next to the city’s Roman temple. Exhibits include Ai Weiwei’s Untitled (Wooden Ball), 2010, which refers back to Leonardo and Ming craftsmen who worked at a similar time (there are parallels between Ai’s polyhedron and Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome which had such an influence on the young Foster when he set out to become an architect). Since Foster is an enthusiastic private art collector, his choices for Nîmes should reveal something of what he is buying. Although most of the exhibits will be outside loans, two are coming from his personal collection.
Björk opens Nordic exhibition
What place better than Times Square to launch an exhibition devoted to the moving image? “Nordic Outbreak”, which focuses on 30 contemporary film artists from northern Europe, kicked off on 1 March with the screening of a new music video by—who else?— Björk on 15 of Times Square’s massive television screens. The short film, which is due to be shown every evening of March at 11:57PM, leads into a series of events hosted by the Streaming Museum held throughout the first week of April, including additional film screenings a symposium on 6 April. As Björk herself put it in a (somewhat non sequitur) statement on the museum’s website: “good luck manhattan !!”
Guggenheim Prize artist borrows works for show
“Great artists steal”, Picasso is supposed to have said. Yet some, like the 2013 Hugo Boss Prize-winning artist Danh Vo, are happy to borrow, as he did for his award exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York. The thousands of objects—mostly figurines and trinkets, but also paintings—that make up the show all come from the collection of the late artist Martin Wong, whom Vo never met. Though the curator Katherine Brinson says the final installation is Vo’s work, she adds: “the show is perhaps best viewed as a collaboration between the two”. And what of the objects after the exhibition? Brinson says Vo is in discussions with another American museum about exhibiting the work, which is now his to lend.
V&A coins it with blockbuster Bowie show
The lure of David Bowie (The Art Newspaper's favourite musician, performer and art aficionado) was such that even as the issue went to press late last night, staffers braved the enormous VIP queue—stretching all the way from the V&A's main Cromwell Road entrance round to the Henry Cole wing—to see the eclectic mix of costumes, drawings, writings, archive films and even a painting of Iggy Pop in Berlin by the master's own hand. Once inside, it wasn’t just the champagne that was of a certain vintage: the guest-list for the private view of “David Bowie Is”—including Marc Almond, Gary Kemp and, er, him from Right Said Fred—was a 1980s revivalist's wet dream. Also present were indie superstars Noel Gallagher, Bernard Butler and Bobby Gillespie. While the main crowd gathered for the show's grand finale—films of Bowie in his pomp screened on giant video walls—a select few made a beeline for the inevitable show-themed retail experience. The actor Bill Nighy, no doubt glad to escape the paps, availed himself of a copy of Bowie in Berlin. Your correspondents, meanwhile, overcome by the excitement, stooped to buying Ziggy Stardust-themed novelty confectionery (and promptly lost their purses, holding up a very patient Jeremy Deller, resplendent in red velvet, at the till). David Bowie, then: the man who sold the world a gold chocolate coin. His legacy is complete.
Protest art by Saudi artists gets princely backing
I laughed out loud when I saw this picture of Yoda with the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations. That austere kingdom doesn’t give us much to giggle about, but Saudi street artist “Shaweesh” has decided it’s time to connect his country with popular culture. By putting the king next to the last Jedi Grand Master is he paying him a complement, or saying that his rulers are living in an unreal world? Definitely a bit edgy, I would say.
Other works in this show of Saudi artists at Artspace in Dubai are even more explicit, particularly the triptych The Hood by Sara Khoja of a half undressed, hooded man perched uncomfortably on a stool. Abu Ghraib, you say to yourself, remembering the techniques practised by the US military to humiliate their Iraqi prisoners. But then you are told the hood is the kind put on falcons to master them, to keep them quiet, and the image changes meaning: falconery is the sport of Arab princes, hence the Saudi regime, so this is also about the domination of citizens in the kingdom.
It is worth noting that the show, which comes to the UAE from Athr, the leading contemporary art gallery in Jeddah, is sponsored by Asharq Al-Ausat, the Arabic-language newspaper published out of London and backed by the 43-year-old, Oxford-educated Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a supporter of King Abdullah’s attempts to liberalise the country. Not for nothing is the exhibition (a near sell-out at prices between $2,500 and $10,000), called “A Line in the Sand”. — Anna Somers Cocks
The martial art of Yves Klein
What links Yves Klein, black belts in judo and esoteric yoga? The answer, of course, is a new exhibition at Marlborough Contemporary in London dedicated to the UK artist Ian Whittlesea (22 March-27 April) who apparently wants to help people become invisible. This sounds like a tall order but Whittlesea plans to hand out an instruction manual in the show that draws on the literature of Rosicrucianism (a centuries-old religious reform movement), theosophy and, of course, esoteric yoga. "[Whittlesea's] text describes a technique for disappearing from view by first splitting light into its constituent parts and then reconstituting the seven colours of the spectrum to form a glowing white cloud that envelops its creator," says a rather stern gallery statement. So how does Klein connect to this vanishing act? Whittlesea is a devotee of Yves who primed his body through judo (this exhibition is, after all, about optimum physical and psychic states). Whittlesea has even gone so far as to gain a black belt in judo, following in the footsteps of the late French artist who used naked woman as paintbrushes and ran his own judo club in Paris.
Hirst gets ethical
For all those who say Damien Hirst will do anything for money, it's worth pondering on a recent news nugget revealing that the UK artist withdrew from creating what could have been the most gigantic work of art of all time, or at least one of them: a wrap for the Olympic Stadium in London after a row over sponsorship by Dow Chemicals (in 1999 Dow purchased Union Carbide, a firm involved in some 15,000 deaths in Bhopal India following a gas leak). Film-maker Danny Boyle, who directed the Olympics opening ceremony, says he asked Hirst to design a 3,000 ft long, 66 ft high fabric wrap around the stadium but the artist pulled out when news of Dow's controversial £7m sponsorship deal emerged, according to The Sunday Times. "Originally we designed the wrap for the stadium. It was to be covered in ivy and called the Hanging Garden. It got taken away from us," says Boyle in an authorised biography ("Danny Boyle: Creating Wonder") to be published next month. Despite pulling out of the opening ceremony, Hirst went on to design a monumental spin painting which formed the backdrop to the closing festivities.
Bedwyr looks to the stars
Pop along today (15 March) to St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, and find out what the Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams has in store for the Welsh Pavilion this summer at the Venice Biennale (the St Asaph-born artist proudly represents Cymru at the Italian art jamboree this year). A day of talks, performances and film screenings at the museum (11am-5pm), quirkily entitled "Bedwyr Williams and the Starry Messenger", "explore the relationship between stargazing and the home, the cosmos, and the role of the amateur", says a press statement (naturally, Williams's Venice installation looks at life, the universe, and everything). An evening of comedy performances from 8pm, "Starry Night", tops off the day of delving into the cosmos.
Pop(e) art in Venice
Will the newly elected Pope throw his weight behind the Vatican's plans for a pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale? Unsurprisingly, we've had no word from the Holy See about Pope Francis I's vision for Venice (he may have other priorities this morning). The Vatican's line-up for the biennale, which opens in June, has not been announced but early last year, the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that “the artists will include fewer than ten men and women from various countries around the world, some of whom are established artists and others who are just emerging. Their subject matter will be the first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis.” A spokesman for the Venice Biennale confirmed this morning that the Vatican pavilion will launch at the Arsenale, so can we expect to see the humble former archbishop of Buenos Aires, known for taking public transport, hopping on and off the vaporetti (water buses) in Venice this summer?
Unicorn tapestries recreated
The famous cycle of seven, early 16th-century Netherlandish tapestries, “The Hunt of the Unicorn”, has been recreated at a cost of £2m as part of Historic Scotland’s £12m refurbishment of James V’s apartments at Stirling Castle. Weavers at West Dean Tapestry Studio in Sussex, England, have been working for more than 12 years on the tapestries, which are based on the originals in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Six of the works are copies, but the seventh, The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn (above), which is due to be completed in spring next year, is a new interpretation based on two surviving fragments. The design for the last work will be exhibited alongside one of the completed tapestries, The Unicorn is Found, 2008, in an exhibition, “Finding the Unicorn: Tapestries Mythical and Modern”, at London’s Fleming Collection (17 April-1 June). —V.L.
In and out at Maastricht
Tefaf Maastricht will be the final outing for the London-based Old Master specialist gallery Agnew’s which is closing its doors after 195 years. “We’ve got some very good things to show at the fair, and we aim to sell them,” says the gallery’s chairman Julian Agnew, a sixth generation member to work for the family firm. Agnew says he will continue to work from home advising clients privately: “For most dealers who are not in the contemporary art world, you don’t need a gallery anymore.” Meanwhile, Haunch of Venison has withdrawn from Tefaf after Christie’s, its parent company, announced the closure of the gallery, which it bought in 2007. The auction house will retain the gallery’s secondary market business. “Due to proposed changes at Haunch of Venison, we regret to announce that the gallery will no longer participate in Tefaf,” a gallery spokeswoman says. —C.B.
All About My Mother
Visitors to the Other Art Fair next month at the Ambika P3 venue in London (25-28 April) will no doubt be taken aback by a display of paintings depicting a multitude of mums. Entitled "100 Mothers", the installation will feature a plethora of portraits by artists such as Dinos Chapman, Grayson Perry, Vic Reeves, and Daisy de Villeneuve who have all painted pieces celebrating their mothers. Harry Pye, the display curator, says: "'100 Mothers' is probably the most straightforward and irony free exhibition of all time. I selected 50 male and 50 female artists I admired, provided them with a 16 by 20 inch canvas and asked them to paint their mother on it. The results were 100 paintings: some touching, some funny, some sad, some disturbing." Pye points out that the paintings are not for sale individually. "I'd like the paintings to stay together and be seen by as many different people as possible. If someone wanted the lot, we'd charge £100,000, all of which would be donated to a worthy cause." The Other Art Fair presents works by unrepresented artists.
Painting from beyond the grave
In a bit of a macabre performance, the Norwegian artist Morten Viskum used a dead man’s hand to paint an African landscape as part of the Red Zone festival last month in Oslo. The appendage had come from a man who emigrated to Norway as a child refugee and died as an adult in 2008. Viskum imagines that the dead man dreamed the landscape. “Showing this performance in a church puts the dreams and thoughts of this man in a larger perspective”, said Erik Hyllestad, one of the organisers of the festival, which deals with freedom of speech. Around 100 people came to watch the performance held in the “kulturkirken Jakob”, a church building in Oslo that houses cultural events as well also religious services. Viskum previously painted using a cadaver’s hand during the Venice Biennale in 2009. During that show, someone complained to the police, but in Norway “only one person left the church shouting something nobody understood”, Hyllestad said. — Hanne Cecilie Gulstad
Waiting for Jeff
The UK contemporary art collector and DIY magnate Frank Cohen gives an illuminating interview in The Times, shining a bright-ish light on the perplexing process behind commissioning new works. How much has he spent on art, the London newspaper asks. “A lot of money. I can’t tell you.” The most expensive piece is a balloon monkey by Jeff Koons, “if we get it", Cohen says. The idea is apparently still in production six years on. “You have to wait, like a lifetime’s sentence. Just incredible. It doesn’t exist. You are buying something off a drawing. We wait and we wait and we wait.” Cohen will show works from his collection at the Dairy Arts Centre, his new space which opens next month in Bloomsbury, London. The new gallery, formerly a 12,500 sq ft. depot for Express Dairies, is a joint project with the Danish art advisor Nicolai Frahm.
Room for Bloomberg in Serpentine space
The Art Newspaper understands that the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, will have a room named after him at the Serpentine Gallery’s new annexe, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which is scheduled to open this June in London’s Kensington Gardens. The Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid has overseen the redevelopment of the 208-year-old Grade II-listed building, a former gunpowder depot, which will provide 900 sq. m of gallery and events space. “Bloomberg made a transformative founding gift to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery,” says a spokeswoman for the gallery, who declined to reveal how much the mayor donated. Bloomberg, who also declined to comment, served as a trustee of the Serpentine from 1998 until 2001. The new gallery is named after the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.
A fictional trial is busted by real police in Russia
Truth is often stranger than fiction in Russia, and last Sunday was no exception when immigration police and later Cossacks in furry black headgear burst into a theatrical recreation of the Pussy Riot trial at Moscow’s Sakharov Centre. The policemen demanded to check the documents of Milo Rau, the founder and director of the Cologne and Zurich-based International Institute of Political Murder who had organised the performance, and accused him of violating Russian visa regulations. A lawyer participating in the performance helped Rau deal with the police, but two hours later, the show was interrupted once again when Cossacks stormed in, saying they were there to defend Russian Orthodoxy from further insults. “My impression was that they had absolutely no plan—they just wanted to interrupt it and helplessly searched for a reason,” Rau told AP today. “It was more Kafka than Stalin.” The trial resumed, and soon Yekaterina Samutsevich, the only one of the three jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot to be released on probation, took the stand. Rau said he will be turning his film of the “Moscow Trials” into a video installation to be shown at the next Berlinale film festival.
German curator enters Russian territory at Venice
Russian journalists, curators and collectors descended upon the Stella Art Foundation in Moscow last night (28 February) to discover curator Udo Kittelmann's plans for the Russian Pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale (1 June-24 November). Over a lavish dinner awash with Russian delicacies, the director of the State Museums Berlin, told the assembled art crowd that eyebrows were raised in Germany when he was appointed last year to present a show of works in La Serenissima by Vadim Zakharov, a founding member of the Moscow Conceptualists in the 1970s. But the decision to take the Venice project on board was an easy one says Kittelmann, as Zakharov is a trusted colleague. In a press statement, Kittelmann says: "As a curator, one must be truly convinced of an artist's work in order to follow his career continuously for the past 20 years. I have followed Zakharov through mythical Elysian Fields and met much resistance with him as we erected together [in 2003] the monument for Theodor W. Adorno at his place of birth, Frankfurt am Main [the memorial was repeatedly damaged by vandals]." The glamorous patron Stella Kesaeva, commissioner of the pavilion and the founder of the eponymous foundation, hired Kittelmann last year.
A peek at the archives: The Art Newspaper, March 1993
Making headlines 20 years ago in The Art Newspaper: The Italian government promises the equivalent of $1.2 billion for the protection of Venice and bans the passage of oil tankers through the lagoon. Today, the flood defences are still not finished and the tankers are still sailing in and out. Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen confirms that he will sell the majority of his collection, mainly of Old Masters, to the Spanish State for the equivalent then of $259m, a price well below its market value. The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities buys most of the personal archive of the Futurist Filippo Marinetti: 120 manuscripts, scrapbooks, 1,000 photographs, posters, letters from Balla, Severini, Depero and more. The Italian authorities do not stop it because they are fixated on Old Masters. Sotheby’s lends $1.5m to the indigent New York Historical Society against the $3.5m surety of its library and art collections. The Kremlin lends a Metropolitan-worthy show of treasures to an antique dealer, Marco Datrino, in the remote north Italian village of Torre Canavese because he is a trusty and, in the post-Soviet collapse, the museum is in desperate need of funds. For a larger view of the front page from March 1993, click here.