A political message written in blood
Museum visitors who feel woozy at the sight of blood should take care when visiting the atrium of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, next week. From 4-7 August, the space will be transformed into a hospital amphitheatre. Inside, the artist Mary Coble plans to draw her own blood and use it to write messages on white curtains lining the walls. Her performance aims to draw attention to the US Food and Drug Administration’s policy, in place since 1992, of refusing blood donations from men who have had sex with men in order to limit the spread of HIV/Aids. “This is a heated debate in this country,” Coble says in a statement. “And Washington is where US policy is formed. This FDA policy is just one among many examples of generally accepted and politically supported homophobia.” Coble will be joined by four gay male performers working with thread as a substitute for their own “impure” blood. Around them, Coble plans to hang posters and slogans from blood donation publicity campaigns, which present the donor as a saviour and hero. Coble hopes the juxtaposition will underline the discriminatory nature of the FDA’s policy. “Gay men are never allowed to be heroes,” she says.
Getty's Prometheus will make heads spin
Visitors to the Getty Villa, Malibu, might be surprised to see a high-tech wheel, which is 23-feet tall and weighs five tonnes, in the middle of its classically proportioned outdoor auditorium. The kinetic steel work is "the most dramatic set we've ever had", says Laurel Kishi, the performing arts manager at the Getty Museum, on the institution's blog about building the centrepiece of "Prometheus Unbound". The innovative update of the Greek myth—Prometheus is condemned by Zeus to eternal torment for giving fire to mere mortals—comes courtesy of CalArts' Center for New Performance. As well as learn his lines, the star actor who plays Prometheus, Ron Cephas Jones, has had to rehearse the role while being strapped to the wheel, which revolves throughout the performance. Tickets are on sale for what promises to be a memorable night in Malibu. (Previews 29-31 August and then performances, Thursday to Saturday, 5-28 September.)
New Serpentine space is on the horizon
The Serpentine Gallery in London expands its empire with the official launch of its second space, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens, on 28 September (the building was initially due to open last year). Housed in a former 19th-century gunpowder store, the new 900 sq. m venue is five minutes walk from the Serpentine Gallery on the north side of the Serpentine Bridge. The high-profile Iraq-born architect Zaha Hadid has overseen the ambitious, and highly anticipated, new development. "The Serpentine will present its unrivalled programme of exhibitions and events across both galleries and [the] surrounding park," pipes up a press statement.
Save Europe's seven most endangered heritage sites
The buffer zone that bisects the island of Cyprus and runs through the historic capital of Nicosia was named one of the “Seven Most Endangered Monuments and Sites in Europe” by Europa Nostra last month during its annual meeting in Athens. Having a demilitarised zone in the middle of the city means that many of the medieval and neoclassical buildings have been abandoned for nearly 40 years. “Once the focal point of crafts and trade, the heart of historic Nicosia is today a lifeless 1.5 km corridor,” Europe Nostra says on its website. But political conflict is not the only threat to heritage, according to the organisation, and some of the other sites on the list are at risk because of “lack of funds or expertise… inadequate planning, neglect, natural disaster”. These include the Roman amphitheatre in Durrës in Albania, the 15th-century monastery in Setúbal in Portugal and the historic mining landscape of Rosia Montana in Romania. “Rescuing these sites would also act as a catalyst for the social and economic revitalisation of entire cities or areas. This is why Europa Nostra calls upon many public and private partners, at local, national and European levels, to join forces with them to ensure a promising future for the selected sites,” says Plácido Domingo, the opera tenor and president of Europa Nostra. The European Investment Bank Institute has already stepped up to the plate, serving as the founding partner of the seven most endangered programme and working with the Council of Europe Development Bank to offer advice on how funding can be secured for these heritage site. Rescue action plans are due to be presented at Europa Nostra’s European Heritage Policy Conference in Brussels this December. So see all seven sites, go to Europa Nostra's Flickr stream.
Artist makes hardcopy of the internet
Leave it to an artist to try to figure out where the Internet ends. Printing Out the Internet, a project by Kenneth Goldsmith for the Labor gallery in Mexico City, is exactly what it sounds like: an attempt to “literally print out the entire internet” with the help of mail-in contributions from around the world, which have been coming in steadily. On 22 July, Goldsmith reported on his blog that he already had received ten tons of paper, (“Keep it coming! We’re getting close!”), but not everyone is happy with the idea. A petition on Change.org titled “Please don’t print the internet” has 400 signers who implore Goldsmith to reconsider. “A sustainable responsible approach to life requires that humans adopt a conservative approach to resource usage.” The artist’s response? “Nice try guys. The show will go on.” Now we don't feel so bad about printing out our emails.
Three artists walk into a toy store, buy more than 500 plastic figurines, and before you know it, they’ve got an art project. At the Japan Society in New York, the summer’s artists-in-residence are an anonymous Japanese trio simply known as “three”, who are currently working on a series that involves photographing and documenting action figures before cutting them apart and melting them down. But it’s not all destructive fun and games, as the artists are from Fukushima, and another one of their works references the nuclear disaster that happened there on 11 March 2011. Tokyo Electric is a sculpture made of 151,503 fish-shaped soy sauce containers, the same number as those who were displaced after the meltdown. An open studio is being held at the Japan Society gallery on 27 July when the public can meet the elusive artists.
Mayor of London unveils big and potent blue bird
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, unveiled this morning (25 July) Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch, carefully avoiding the English half of the sculpture's title. Standing at the foot of the plinth in Trafalgar Square he promised that he would resist the temptation to interpret the work in his speech, only to rattle off a number of possible references, ranging from London's sense of liberty and freedom to recent British sporting triumphs at Wimbledon, in the Ashes and also in the Tour de France. (The artist denies that her choice of bird and colour has any Gallic connotations.) Johnson concluded with a playful dig at his fellow Conservative and old Etonian by saying that in the future Googling the "big, blue bird's" name would lead the search engine to collapse "at the behest of the Prime Minister". This week David Cameron called for greater internet censorship, which has been dubbed a "porn block". Jon Snow, the broadcaster, who is a member of the Fourth Plinth commissioning group and a former trustee of the National Gallery, London, told us that he admired in particular the cockerel's "distinguished flurry" of tail feathers, which is directed at the gallery. "It's full of optimism and fertility, which is what the National Gallery is all about," he said.
Olympic art trees: see how they've grown
A year after the London Olympic Games began, the first part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is due to open this weekend with an athletics meeting and the Open East festival (27-28 July). Visitors will also be able to discover how some of Ackroyd & Harvey's arboreal works of art have bedded in. The History Trees are ten mature specimens transplanted to the park. The branches of each tree supports a large metal ring engraved with references to the history of the site, for years an unlovely industrial stretch of the river Lee. The artists told The Art Newspaper last year: "Trees accrue beauty as they mature and grow old, as opposed to some sort of sculptural thing glorifying the Olympics that might become dated over time. The work is very much a celebration of what was there, going back almost to prehistory, but also right up to the compulsory purchases of businesses on the site." The rings, which are six meters in diameter and weigh around half a tonne, are meant to become fully supported by the trees' branches over time. An exhibition about The History Trees is on show at View Tube, a space overlooking the east London park (until 29 September). It will be another year, however, before the park fully opens and visitors can enjoy once again the Arcelor Mittal Orbit, the big red tower co-designed by the artist Anish Kapoor: another heavy-metal triumph of art and engineering erected for the Olympics.
Royal blue is the colour in Trafalgar Square
As the world waits for the first photographs of the royal baby (or Alison Jackson's version using look-alikes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their son and heir), the fountains in London's Trafalgar Square are looking a deeper blue than usual. Last night, to celebrate the royal birth, special LED lighting was switched on. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced that the fountains would remain baby blue for a week. Adding to the colour co-ordination of the square, on Thursday morning the next Fourth Plinth sculpture is due to be unveiled. The work is a cockerel painted matt blue. The German artist Katharina Fritsch's choice of bird and hue initially caused eyebrows to be raised when first announced, among them the mayor's. (Hahn/Cock seemed too Gallic by half standing so near to Nelson's Column.) But today Fritsch's colour sense seems inspired.
Update: for Jackson's images of the proud parents and baby see her website
Fame and glory to be found in Rockaway
New Yorkers stifling in the summer heat should be happy to hear that Creative Time's annual sandcastle building competition is gearing up for its second edition on 9 August, and the ten artists who will lead the beach construction teams have been chosen. People of all ages are invited to join the future palace,artchitects--David Brooks, Sebastian Errazuriz, Ghost of a Dream (Lauren Was & Adam Eckstrom), Jamie Isenstein, Natalie Jeremijenko, Esperanza Mayobre, Rachel Owens, Duke Riley, Christopher Robbins, and Marc Andre Robinson--from noon on near the 86th Street boardwalk on Rockaway Beach, the Queens neighborhood that is thankfully getting back on its feet after superstorm Sandy. But the event, sponsored by Melissa Shoes and Société Perrier with support from Rockabus, is more than a chance to cool off at the seaside. According to last year's winners, Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, it's an opportunity to secure eternal art world glory. “The Creative Time Sandcastle competition is probably the premier competition of its sort in the world," the pair say in the press release, and we agree that it's certainly a one of a kind prize. Since winning, they quip, "all of these museums have asked us to fill positions in their landscaping department. We can barely walk down the street or enter the subways of New York City without people surrounding us and asking for our autographs.” Just watch out for high tide.
All you need is love, Belgian style
Belgium may well have a new monarch after Crown Prince Philippe was sworn in as Phillipe I yesterday (21 July), but Belgian royal watchers are fixated on another blueblooded saga linking an artist to Albert II who abdicated to make way for his son. The sculptor Delphine Boel, 45, insists that she is the daughter of Albert II, the result of an extra-marital affair. Boel has cannily used the scenario as source material for her art, creating the catchily entitled neon sculpture Love Child (the two words are divided by a heart topped with a fetching yellow crown). The artist has even gone to court to try and force the Belgian royals to give DNA samples. And how has the Belgian monarchy responded? "This is a private affair, and we have no comment whatsoever," a palace spokesman said, reports the International Herald Tribune.
Carsten Höller exhibition to open Botín Centre next summer
The Brussels-born artist Carsten Höller is to create a site-specific installation for the debut exhibition at the €62m Botín Centre, which opens in Santander, northern Spain next summer. It is the artist's first major show in Spain. The Renzo Piano-designed space—also a first for the Italian architect in Spain—will be home to the visual art programme of the Botín Foundation, which is run by Emilio Botín, the president of Banco Santander. Although details of Höller's work are yet to be released, a spokeswoman for the project says that it will complement the ethos of the centre, which is meant to be "a laboratory to investigate how art influences emotion and creativity".
Russian government puts end to Pushkin and Hermitage dispute
Vladimir Tolstoy, the great-great-grandson of the writer Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Putin’s cultural adviser appears to have ended a battle between the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. They had been rowing for months over Modernist masterpieces, including paintings by Renoir and Picasso, that had been split between the Pushkin and the Hermitage after Stalin’s 1948 liquidation of the State Museum of New Western Art in Moscow where they were housed. Earlier this month, it was announced that Irina Antonova, 91, who ran the Pushkin for 52 years and had appealed to Putin to reunite the collections, was retiring. In a letter last week to Mikhail Piotrovsky, the general director of the Hermitage, Tolstoy wrote that the government had decided that recreating the Museum of New Western Art could lead to the “unfounded redistribution of museum collections” and was “unviable”.
Dia founders oppose plans to sell works to start acquisition fund
The founders of the New York-based Dia Art Foundation are speaking out against its plan to sell a group of works this autumn to raise money for an acquisition fund. On 14 July, three members of Dia’s original board—Fariha de Menil Friedrich, Heiner Friedrich and Helen Winkler—sent a stern letter to the foundation’s director Philippe Vergne and to the current board, including the collector Howard Rachofsky and the artist Robert Ryman. “The original collection was formed to preserve the great art of our time from the ravages of the art market and to present it to the public in the most beautiful way,” they wrote. “Selling at auction any part of this historical collection is absolutely out of the question for any responsible director and board member of the foundation.” Last week, Paul Winkler, the former director of the Menil Collection and the brother of Helen Winkler, wrote his own letter to Vergne opposing the plan. Among the works scheduled to be sold at Sotheby’s on 13 and 14 November are “Poems to the Sea”, 1959, a suite of 24 drawings by Cy Twombly, and Genesis—The Break, 1946, a zip painting by Barnett Newman. In an interview with the New York Times last month, Vergne said that proceeds from the sale, estimated to exceed $20m, would be used to enhance the foundation’s permanent collection. (The institution is fundraising separately to renovate the former Alcamo Marble building in Chelsea, which it purchased in 2011 to expand its footprint in New York.) “Dia cannot be a mausoleum,” Vergne told the newspaper. “It needs to grow and develop.” Vergne did not respond to a request for comment from The Art Newspaper about the mounting opposition to the sale.
The world according to Matthew: Barney premieres latest epic
The art world has been on tenterhooks about Matthew Barney’s new piece, a seven-part film project entitled River of Fundament, and inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1983 novel about Egyptian mythology, "Ancient Evenings". Last weekend, Barney presented excerpts at the Manchester International Festival in front of a keen artsy crowd comprising, among others, Serpentine bigwig Julia Peyton-Jones, art world heavyweight Sir Norman Rosenthal and the style journo Jefferson Hack. Barney explained, in his deadpan style, what motivated the new work. “What attracted me is the problem posed by Egyptian mythology, a fundamental source to tap which felt impossible to deal with,” he said. The clips presented were typically obtuse and intriguing. The audience sat in silence, surveying a scene set at Mailer’s wake in New York in which the actress Elaine Stritch gives a speech honouring the late US author. Paul Giamatti, the star of "Sideways", also features, and is seen gratefully receiving a massage. Barney appears with the actress Aimee Mullins covered in green-tinged silt. The second excerpt documented an eight-hour performance filmed over 24 hours in Detroit in 2010: workers engineer a spectacular river of molten steel as an orchestra plays (note Jonathan Bepler’s sweeping score). Hollywood A-lister Maggie Gyllenhaal was the protagonist of the final scene savoured in Manchester. She is ensnared by a mind-blowing, mythological father figure (again, coated in silt) who dominates proceedings in Mailer’s brownstone in New York (the scenario is not for the faint hearted: oral stimulation of an anus stays with you). “I can’t work with something unless I despise and love it in equal parts,” quipped Barney on his latest, alluring labour of love. The project is due to be shown in opera houses and theatres internationally from next year.
Allemandi lands in New York
If you’re in midtown Manhattan this week, you may notice that the Rizzoli bookstore has dedicated its entire window to books produced by the Turin publishers Umberto Allemandi & C., the parent company of The Art Newspaper. Five recent titles are featured: Bernardo Strozzi by Camillo Manzitti, Eroi, edited by Danilo Eccher, Fontana Arte edited by Franco Deboni, Porphyry by Dario Del Bufalo and Villa Carlotta edited by Serena Bertolucci. Famous for being beautifully produced, Allemandi’s trademark aquamarine blue is featured on the covers of several of the books. Founded in 1982 in Turin, Allemandi specialises in books on art history, architecture and design.
Californian art world protests LA Times reporter layoff
In a heartwarming show of solidarity, the heads of 15 museums in California have rallied behind the art reporter at the Los Angeles Times, who was made redundant last week in the latest round of layoffs at the paper. Its parent company, Tribune, reported a 41% drop in profits in June. In a letter to Davan Maharaj, the paper's editor, Ann Philbin of the Hammer Museum, Michael Govan of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Jeffrey Deitch of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Timothy Potts of the J. Paul Getty Museum, among others, call for Jori Finkel to be reinstated. They write: “Jori is the go-to source here for art world news and analysis, with articles that are consistently insightful and accessible and a byline that is read around the world,” adding: “It is especially unfortunate to see you dismiss your only staff reporter specialising in art now that Los Angeles is increasingly recognised worldwide as the most influential centre for contemporary art and culture.” Finkel responds with equal affection: “Seeing museum leaders organise so quickly this week on behalf of art reporting reminds me of why I moved here in the first place: for an art community that is serious but scrappy, totally dynamic and fully engaged. And I feel super grateful for all the support.” Let's hope the newspaper re-evaluates its take on art, after all, as the museum directors point out, “some of the potential buyers of the LA Times are art collectors and follow arts news with special interest”.
Prix Pictet photographer captures harsh reality of an Afghan climate
After winning the coveted Prix Pictet commission, the British photographer Simon Norfolk travelled to Bamyan Province in Afghanistan's Central Highlands in February to shoot the landscape as it changed through the seasons. There the climate can wreak havoc on the local farming communities—May is known as the “disaster season”, when the sun melts the deep winter snow, sending it crashing down the valleys and often ripping through villages in its path. "Every year the beautiful, pristine blanket of white holds within it the possibilities of destruction and death," Norfolk writes in the Financial Times newspaper. Norfolk's series, also called “The Disaster Season”, depicts scenes photographed from the same vantage point roughly six weeks apart. The body of work is due to go on show at Somerset House in London from 10 to 27 October. Established in 2008 as a platform to debate environmental issues, the Prix Pictet has two elements: this year the French photographer Luc Delahaye won the main prize of CHF 100,000, while Norfolk was awarded the commission, which this year is supported by the Swiss-based humanitarian organisation Medair.
Retrospective for Russian outsider in Monaco
An intriguing show of works by Erik Bulatov has just opened at the Villa Paloma in Monaco ("Bulatov: Paintings and Drawings 1966-2013", until 29 September). The name might not be instantly recognisable but the Sverdlovsk-born artist is a central figure in contemporary Russian art. Indeed, the Swiss auctioneer Simon de Pury points out on the exhibitiona blog that he was an early fan of the Russian, stressing indeed that the first work of art he ever bought was Bulatov's Ne Prislonyatsa (Do not lean), 1987. Bulatov was very much considered an "unofficial" artist but "all this changed with the historic auction that I had the privilege to conceive of and conduct for Sotheby’s in Moscow in July 1988", De Pury says. "The Bulatov did not cost much, even if for my salary back then it was quite a stretch. Despite Bulatov’s stellar career in museums and institutions around the world, it took years for the market to finally recognise his major artistic importance. In 2007, my first wife sold Ne Prislonyatsa for a then record price at Phillips de Pury in London [£916,000 with buyer's premium]." The retrospective, organised by the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, springs a few surprises, none moreso than an eye-opening exploration of parallels between the work of Bulatov and that of US art titan Ed Ruscha.
Techno-meisters hit Berlin
The 1970s electro pop pioneers Kraftwerk surprisingly get their first exhibition in Berlin at Sprüth Magers (until 31 August). Fans of the Synth kings will no doubt flock to sample a 3-D video and sound installation entitled 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (the enigmatic moniker refers to the works from The Catalogue, a box set that includes Kraftwerk's eight albums, starting with Autobahn, 1974). A press statement helpfully points out: "The multimedia project Kraftwerk was founded in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider within the experimental art scene of the late 1960s in Düsseldorf.... Right from the start, Kraftwerk regarded their concert performances as complete audio-visual events." A series of eight concerts held at Tate Modern earlier this year caused a stampede for tickets among Kraftwerk devotees (the group, sometimes labelled the "Electronic Beatles" wowed a black-clad, Modernist, middle-aged audience).
Keller's gripe about the "growing influence of lawyers"
An impressive new publication designed to help art aficionados unravel the legal intricacies of the art world—"The Art Collecting Legal Handbook" (Thomson Reuters)—should prove invaluable for collectors and dealers worldwide (co-editors Bruno Boesch and Massimo Sterpi crucially cover all key international jurisdictions). The foreword by former Art Basel supremo Sam Keller, now director of Basel's Fondation Beyeler, especially caught our eye. "I have been working in the art world for about a quarter of a century now, and along with the positive changes I have observed, there are others that give me reason to worry," he says. "One of them concerns the growing influence of lawyers. Handshake deals are still the rule rather than the exception in the inner circle of the art world.... we have never needed a contract with any of the artists I worked with, be it Louise Bourgeois, Maurizio Cattelan, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Ellsworth Kelly or Ernesto Neto. The only exception was a site-specific sculpture commissioned from Richard Serra." Keller concludes: "Not surprisingly, the involvement of lawyers does not always make collaborations easier. In some cases it poisons relationships." But Sam realises that legal eagles do have their uses. "But of course there are also instances when sensitive lawyers can actually facilitate projects," he adds.
An art float shaped like a mountain marks Independence day in Aspen
The Aspen Art Museum has mastered the art of celebrating the Fourth of July. For the eighth consecutive year, the institution has commissioned an artist to create a float for the Colorado city’s Independence Day parade, which attracts 20,000 local residents each year. This time, it invited the Los Angeles-based collective Machine Project, described by LA Weekly as “Nikola Tesla by way of P.T. Barnum, with a dash of ‘The Anarchist Cookbook'.” The group’s float is modelled after the Maroon Bells, two peaks in the Elk Mountains southwest of Aspen. Members of the collective and museum staff will poke their heads through holes at the top of the striking structure, and walk with it down Main Street. A Bernese mountain dog named Sammy, owned by a local Aspen entrepreneur, is set to follow behind on a smaller version of the float. “We wanted to pay tribute to a local landmark with a musical float in its honour, featuring both traditional and more unusual parade elements, and simple technologies anyone can be taught to recreate on their own,” the Machine Project told The Art Newspaper in a statement. “We are still negotiating with the dog for his participation but are ready to offer as much bacon as it takes.”
Painting a picture of Maggie
A portrait of the late Iron Lady at Philip Mould gallery in London is causing quite a stir. The work, painted by Lorna May Wadsworth over five sittings in the summer of 2007, will no doubt be sought after by fans of the formidable Tory titan who died in April (the price of the true blue piece is undisclosed). When shown the finished work, Lady Thatcher was "delighted", says the gallery, though surprisingly she declared that "it looks a little fierce!"...
A peek at the archives: The Art Newspaper, July 1993
Making headlines 20 years ago in The Art Newspaper, Issue No 30: In an historic decision, a Tribunal d’Instance in Paris ruled on 7 June 1993 that Jacques Walter, whose painting by Van Gogh Le Jardin à Auvers had been auctioned in 1992 for a mere FFr 55m, was entitled to compensation because the price had been depressed by the export ban imposed by the State. This judgment was to put in motion a radical reform of French legislation relating to the export of works of art, recognising citizens’ right to enjoy the true market value of their possessions. The Californian collector Norton Simon died and his widow, the actress Jennifer Jones, confirmed to The Art Newspaper that his outstanding collection of Old Masters, which includes Rembrandt’s Titus, would remain in their private museum in Pasadena. Thomas Ammann, a top Swiss dealer in Modern and contemporary art, died aged 43 of an Aids-related illness. The Spanish government and the Trustees of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation finally reached the agreement that the state would pay the equivalent of $350m over five years for 775 paintings, mostly Old Masters, which can be seen in the Villahermosa Palace in Madrid. Sotheby’s London sold an 18th-century portable toilet disguised as a tooled, red and gold leather-bound book for £14,000.