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Look who’s hanging in the White House

The Huffington Post has an AP story today about the contemporary art revolution that has taken place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since the Obamas took up residence there. There have been a few reports on this development since the election — including excited reactions from gallery owners and museum directors — but with today’s story […]

The Huffington Post has an AP story today about the contemporary art revolution that has taken place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since the Obamas took up residence there. There have been a few reports on this development since the election — including excited reactions from gallery owners and museum directors — but with today’s story it would appear that the checklist has been finalized (or at least the First Lady’s office released a list earlier this week).

Work by Glenn Ligon and Ed Ruscha, both of whom are important to the Walker’s collection, is on view (at left is a Ligon piece from the Walker – not the White House!), along with pieces Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, and Richard Diebenkorn; the HP story has a pretty extensive slide show of some of the selections, but the Washington Post’s has even more (along with a review of sorts by critic Black Gopnik).

Quincy Jones as U.S. Secretary of the Arts?

As we all know President Obama is taking on challenges that have faced America for years. His plate is full of responsibilities that as a citizen I cannot even begin to comprehend how long his “to-do” list is for the next four years. I would venture a guess that his Microsoft Outlook calendar is triple-booked […]

As we all know President Obama is taking on challenges that have faced America for years. His plate is full of responsibilities that as a citizen I cannot even begin to comprehend how long his “to-do” list is for the next four years. I would venture a guess that his Microsoft Outlook calendar is triple-booked from now until 2012. So taking on a new challenge or debate on whether or not he should appoint a Secretary for the Arts has become increasingly strong. Quincy Jones or rather “Q” as he likes to be called has taken it upon himself to start a petition to encourage President Obama to support and develop such a position. Of course, as an arts administration student and a person employed by an arts organization I find this idea to be fascinating and exciting. Is it idealistic? Yes. Could it become a reality? I hope so.

The direction that such a position could take in this country could change the entire arts community. This person would advocate for arts funding and arts education on a federal level. No longer would this type of advocacy be left to large organizations. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing but putting a face to the cause of the arts would hopefully make the need for funding more evident to those who do not understand the necessity of the arts to our country. Yes, I am biased. I will argue the benefits of the arts until the day I die but unfortunately I don’t think they would hire me being that I am no “Q”.

If the arts can become a front-running topic during the infancy days of President Obama’s administration I fear that they can be pushed aside too early on. However I also feel the sooner that arts advocates reach out to the President the better chance they have of adding the cause to his to-do list. As the arts try to find their way during these unpredictable economic times having a representative on our side could make us a feel a little more confident about our future in this country.

I applaud Q’s efforts, I just hope that they will lead to success or if not that then a continued discussion on arts support in this country outside of the arts organization’s walls.

Turner Prize ‘08: “Be The First To See What You See As You See It”

The Guardian has an excellent slideshow of work from the four shortlisted artists, as well as a video, taken from a group exhibition that has just gone on view at the Tate Britain. The British newspaper opines that year’s quartet is “the most obscure shortlist in the history of the prize,”established in 1984 by the […]

The Guardian has an excellent slideshow of work from the four shortlisted artists, as well as a video, taken from a group exhibition that has just gone on view at the Tate Britain.

The British newspaper opines that year’s quartet is “the most obscure shortlist in the history of the prize,”established in 1984 by the Tate Britain. If that’s so, perhaps rather than merely affirming talent, the museum is trying to gain credibility as one who makes it – not unlike one notable British innovation that spawned a phenomenally successful American franchise.

The four artists are Goshka Macuga, Cathy Wilkes, Mark Leckey, and Runa Islam (one of whose works’ title was recycled as the title for this post), and the Guardian includes brief bios as part of its extensive coverage of the prize, which is taken very seriously in the UK, with bookies getting in on the action (apparently, the lone male of the group is currently favored).

Looking back at a list of previous winners and nominees, it does seem that many Turner artists were better known when they won the Prize (and many have work that’s in the Walker’s collection or has been seen in its galleries: Gilbert and George, Derek Jarman (subject of a special tribute during our Expanding the Frame cinema series in January/February – keep an eye on our Film/Video page for details), Yinka Shonibare, Tony Cragg, Rachel Whiteread, Christ Ofili, etc.)

However, it’s also worth noting that this year’s shortlist artists are not so obscure as to be confined by the boundaries of the UK. Islam, Leckey, Wilkes, and Macuga have each had shows Stateside, if that means anything in a now-thoroughly-globalized art world.

The 2008 Turner winner will be announced December 1, and it’s tempting to wonder if viewer input from the Tate exhibition has any bearing on this decision. In any case, we should probably write a whole other blog post on on the American counterpart to the Turner Prize and speculate on why it doesn’t garner nearly the attention – its 2008 winner was announced last week.

UPDATED: Chelsea Art Museum pulls plug on “Aesthetics of Terror” show, chief curator resigns

Paddy Johnson at the Brooklyn art blog Art Fag City reports that the Chelsea Art Museum has cancelled its November opening of The Aesthetics of Terror and its chief curator has resigned in protest. Museum president Dorothea Keeser reportedly felt the exhibition — which was to include artists like Jenny Holzer, Harun Farocki, Martha Rosler […]

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Paddy Johnson at the Brooklyn art blog Art Fag City reports that the Chelsea Art Museum has cancelled its November opening of The Aesthetics of Terror and its chief curator has resigned in protest. Museum president Dorothea Keeser reportedly felt the exhibition — which was to include artists like Jenny Holzer, Harun Farocki, Martha Rosler and the Chapman brothers — “ glorified terrorism and showed disrespect for its victims,” according to Josh Azzarella, one of the show’s artists. CAM chief curator Manon Slome has, according to Johnson, left over the cancellation.

The museum has deleted mention of the exhibition, which was to run Nov. 21 though Jan. 31, but a cached version (with the title The Dialectics of Terror) is still available.

UPDATE: The Chelsea Museum of Art has released a statement [pdf], which contradicts the above. It states that Chief Curator Manon Slome resigned for “personal reasons.” It continues: “Upon resigning, she unilaterally decided to cancel the exhibition The Dialectics of Terror (formerly The Aesthetics of Terror) and informed all the participating artists without prior discussion with Dorothea Keeser, Chelsea Art Museum’s Founder and President, or any Museum personnel.”

Reached by email on Friday, Keeser said that the exhibition will go on, but likely not at her museum. “As the show is ready to be installed and the catalogue is ready, it surely will be shown somewhere,”she said. “For the time being, we are too hurt to show it here after what happened and was said about us.”

UPDATE 2: Johnson interviews Keeser and offers a note from former CAM chief curator Manon Slome.

MORE: The Chelsea Art Museum’s Dialectics of Terror Catalog Raises More Questions” (with catalogue pdf)

A description of the show after the jump:

(more…)

Damien Hirst tests the law of supply & demand

This former YBA, like Madonna, knows the value of regularly “shocking” the public. Last year, you will recall, he put up for sale a diamond-studded skull sculpture titled “For the Love of God,” with a $100 million price tag. Now, in a protean burst of creativity (it helps when you have five factory/studios full of […]

This former YBA, like Madonna, knows the value of regularly “shocking” the public. Last year, you will recall, he put up for sale a diamond-studded skull sculpture titled “For the Love of God,” with a $100 million price tag.

Now, in a protean burst of creativity (it helps when you have five factory/studios full of workers helping out), Hirst has amassed a body of 223 new pieces that go up for auction at Sotheby’s next week, on September 15 and 16. Regardless of how crass many people find the contemporary art market, it does still observe certain protocols – like having artists sell their new work through galleries. So to have one of the brashest of contemporary artists bypass his middleman dealers and go straight to market himself is not just shocking; it could, some fear, throw the entire market into turmoil.

Whatever one thinks of his art (Robert Hughes blasts Hirst once again in his BBC documentary on money and art, to be broadcast later this month), Hirst has quite a head for business – or so it would seem. Turns out that this shocking auction idea comes from one Frank Dunphy, a man who has served as Hirst’s business manager since the mid-90s, after Hirst won the Turner Prize. While Dunphy has been instrumental in amassing his client’s billion-dollar fortune, this could be the duo’s riskiest gambit yet.

And what became of that $100 million tchotchke, which is set to go on a world tour? Depending on what you read, the skull either remains unsold (but is not part of the auction), or Hirst himself is a part of the “investment group” that purchased it. Not to tout my own head for business, but it does seem rather oxymoronic to buy art from oneself …

“I wanted a Titian and all I got was a lump of lard”

What happens when an art lover tiles his bathroom? You may have seen work by graphic designer Christoph Niemann in Wired magazine, the New York Times, or the New Yorker (he’s done a number of covers for that last publication). Like most illustrators, he’s developed a range of styles, one of which involves rendering images […]

What happens when an art lover tiles his bathroom?

You may have seen work by graphic designer Christoph Niemann in Wired magazine, the New York Times, or the New Yorker (he’s done a number of covers for that last publication). Like most illustrators, he’s developed a range of styles, one of which involves rendering images in pixel form.

So in designing a bathroom for their home, Niemann and his wife decided it’d be fun to translate a famous piece of art into pixel form, then render that image using colored ceramic tiles. The hard part, as you’ll see from his post on the process, was deciding which artwork to use (after all, it’s not like they could just take down this “art” if they got tired of it).

Turns out they considered works by a host of artists – Richter, Indiana, Hockney, Rothko, and others – who’ve shown at the Walker, and/or who have works in our permanent collection. The winning work for their shower tiles was this Pop classic from the collection, on view in The Shape of Time through November 16.

For the tub, they translated a more esoteric work, Corner of Fat, by another Walker favorite, Joseph Beuys (his works are also on view in the Friedman Gallery through next summer). Niemann thought it was a “terrifyingly perfect” idea to do a bathroom-tile version of this work, which originally involved several pounds of butter; his wife’s reaction, he reports, was the quote used in this post’s headline. Luckily, she came around and agreed. Bathroom tiles are one of those crucial matrimonial decisions.

The Cultural Olympiad: are the arts riding on sports’ coattails?

They’re still cleaning up in Beijing, but a couple of days ago British officials announced the initial Olympics-related spectacle for their 2012 games in London: a $75 million, pan-British arts and culture festival to kick off on September 26 and continue for almost four years. Key components of the Cultural Olympiad include a World Shakespeare […]

They’re still cleaning up in Beijing, but a couple of days ago British officials announced the initial Olympics-related spectacle for their 2012 games in London: a $75 million, pan-British arts and culture festival to kick off on September 26 and continue for almost four years. Key components of the Cultural Olympiad include a World Shakespeare Festival and a dozen “cutting-edge” art commissions to be selected from proposals made this fall.

Much has been made of the Brits’ ambivalence about hosting the Olympics, and at least one blogger seems only more bitter about this tacked-on arts extravaganza. “And here is London 2012 roping [the arts] into the patriotic bonanza, coarsening, travestying and betraying things that really matter,” writes Jonathan Jones, the Guardian’s arts writer.

One Cultural Olympiad launch event especially rankles him. Sebastian Coe, the former politician and chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, will take part in Work No 850 at the Tate Britain. This “sculpture” by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed involves runners sprinting, in four-hour shifts, through an 86-meter-long gallery devoted to neoclassical sculpture. (Coe won track and field gold medals in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.) Maybe it’s because Jones is a juror for the 2009 Turner Prize?

I can appreciate his crankiness, but it is quite something for a politician (and a conservative at that) to sprint repeatedly through a museum as part of an artwork. Imagine, say, John McCain arriving at the Walker to sing, slow-dance, or speechify as part of Tino Sehgal’s exhibition earlier this year.

Alas, McCain did not visit the Walker to see or be art. But our Twin Cities did just witness frenzy of cultural activity related to a large (if not quite Olympian) spectacle in St. Paul; in fact, even though the RNC circus has left town, many related projects and events continue at least through Election Day:

I Approve This Message films (scroll down to see submissions)

– an exhibition of portraits of People Who Speak the Truth, opening September 18

–a group show at Form+Content through October 4

– clever, witty, and/or scathing yard signs designed by your fellow citizens, which you can order or print for yourself.

(a full list is at the UnConvention.com)

The thing is, politicians love the arts insofar as they’re considered an economic booster. How many mayors and governors have read (or been briefed on) Richard Florida’s The Rise of Creative Class? So maybe Jones is defending the arts as valid in and of themselves, not needing to be tied to a sports spectacular four years hence. He might believe that the arts, rather than bringing new insights to mass spectacles, simply get overwhelmed by the main attraction and become a sideshow. But even if that’s the case, is it necessarily a bad thing?

(Speaking of art as sideshow, here’s a recent, highly controversial example.)

The Arts and the President

War, energy, humanitarian intervention, public education, women’s reproductive rights, the death penalty … somewhere on the long list of policy positions among the presidential candidates is the arts. Or at least for one of them. Americans for the Arts asked the presidential candidates to provide their positions on the arts and culture in America. Barack […]

War, energy, humanitarian intervention, public education, women’s reproductive rights, the death penalty … somewhere on the long list of policy positions among the presidential candidates is the arts. Or at least for one of them.

Americans for the Arts asked the presidential candidates to provide their positions on the arts and culture in America. Barack Obama provided three: A list of legislation he sponsored or co-authored in support of the arts, a list of policy positions on arts issues, and a proposal to create a National Arts Policy Committee.

The Obama campaign’s policy initiatives include: Reinvest in arts education, expand public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations, create an Artist Corps (a la the Peace Corps), publicly champion the importance of arts education, support increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, promote cultural diplomacy, attract foreign talent, provide health care to artists, and ensure tax fairness for artists. You can download details on these policy positions here.

John McCain has yet to provide any position statements to Americans for the Arts, but he could do worse than follow the lead of President Bush. McCain’s voting record in the U.S. Senate shows he’s not opposed to doing so. During a presidency many label the most disastrous in this country’s history, Bush has been somewhat of a friend to the arts. The Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill includes $144.7 million for the NEA — the highest level of NEA funding since 1995. The $20.2 million increase in support from the previous year represents the largest dollar increase in the NEA’s appropriations since 1979. The NEA reached its peak funding in 1992, at $176 million.

The Presidential election is yet another way you can Vote Yes to the arts, November 4.

Philadelphia Museum chief executive dies

Anne d’Harnoncourt, chief executive of the Philadelphia Museum, died this morning unexpectedly. The New York Times called d’Harnoncourt “one of the art world’s most influential women.” She was 64. D’Harnoncourt had risen from the museum’s curatorial ranks to become, in 1996, its chief executive. Lee Rosenbaum, who pens the CultureGrrl blog for Arts Journal, called […]

Anne d’Harnoncourt, chief executive of the Philadelphia Museum, died this morning unexpectedly. The New York Times called d’Harnoncourt “one of the art world’s most influential women.” She was 64.

D’Harnoncourt had risen from the museum’s curatorial ranks to become, in 1996, its chief executive. Lee Rosenbaum, who pens the CultureGrrl blog for Arts Journal, called d’Harnoncourt “a woman of grace, great distinction, contagious enthusiasm and, above all, warmth. A tremendous loss to the city to which she was a heroine, and to the art world for which she was a role model.”

The Philadelphia Museum’s relationship with the Walker manifested most recently in the Frida Kahlo exhibition, which just left Philadelphia on its way to San Francisco.

Talk with Vergne June 12, Vote Yes November 4

Walker Deputy Director and Chief Curator Philippe Vergne is lending his perspective and voice to a June 12 panel discussion on the current and future states of the arts in Minnesota. Free to the public, the discussion is 5:30 pm at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Joining Vergne at a long table are Kaywin Feldman […]

Walker Deputy Director and Chief Curator Philippe Vergne is lending his perspective and voice to a June 12 panel discussion on the current and future states of the arts in Minnesota. Free to the public, the discussion is 5:30 pm at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Joining Vergne at a long table are Kaywin Feldman (executive director, Minneapolis Institute of Arts), Jocelyn Hale (executive director, Loft Literary Center), Lily Schwartz (director of Pops and Special Projects, Minnesota Orchestra), John Miller-Stephany (associate artistic director, Guthrie Theater), and Vickie Benson (McKnight Foundation program director for the arts). Moderating is FOX9 news anchor Robyne Robinson.

Expect some back-and-forth (mostly forth) about the “Vote Yes” ballot initiative — more formally known as the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The Walker is among many arts (i.e. cultural legacy) institutions advocating the measure, which calls for amending the Minnesota state constitution to add and dedicate three-eighths of a cent on every dollar of taxable sales (think three extra pennies for every $10 you spend at retail) to environmental, outdoors, sporting and arts organizations.

If recent history is an indication, those extra pennies would add up to about $300 million each year (19.25 percent of that will go toward arts/culture). State and regional arts councils would administer the arts funding, redistributing it through existing grant programs. The rest goes to protect, enhance, and/or restore Minnesota’s drinking water sources, wetlands, prairies, forests, lakes, rivers, steams, and groundwater, wildlife habitat, and parks and trails.

On the surface, the arts might seem the round peg on the square board. After all, where else would you find painters and hunters in the grip of solidarity? But proponents are wrapping all the interests into one pitch slogan: “Protect the Minnesota you love.” And who can argue with clean water?

The Walker is asking you to join Vergne in November by saying Vote Oui.

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