Live long and prosper
Leonard Nimoy, who most sci-fi fans knew as the unflappable Mr Spock on the original Star Trek series, died today, aged 83. But the man who made the phrase “Live long and prosper” famous was also a dedicated artist and poet, and his photographic series range from exploring people’s hidden “other” lives (“Secret Selves”) to an appreciation of the varying forms of the human body (“The Full Body Project”). “Leonard Nimoy first experienced the magic of making photographic images as a teen-ager in the early 1940s. His darkroom was the family bathroom in their small Boston apartment. His subjects were family and friends,” says his Northampton, Massachusetts dealer Richard Michelson.
Nimoy’s penchant for art and acting overlapped in the one-man play he wrote and performed, “Vincent”, 1981, about Theo Van Gogh, based on the Phillip Stephens play “Van Gogh”. A filmed version can be found in the education archives of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. He was also a keen art collector.
Here is a selection of his work.
An ode to Sandy
Sandy Nairne, the retiring director of London’s National Portrait Gallery, was honoured with a send-off from the former poet laureate, Andrew Motion, who spoke at his farewell party last weekend. The two men have known each other since schooldays, so Motion felt he could include a slightly cheeky comment on Nairne’s sartorial style when he stood up to read his eulogistic verses, composed for the occasion. We reproduce just a few lines from Motion’s detailed portrait in words, in which he praised Nairne for:
the way sense matches humour in your talk;
the way your long black coat and big black hat
make us reflect, ‘He’s got away with that
when I would certainly be thought a prat’;
the way you learn your speeches off by heart
and make formalities a gracious art;
the way your energy and stamina exceed
the normal human store
Has Hans Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of London’s Serpentine Galleries, been missing that dirty dancing android that he brought to the attention of the Art Basel crowds as part of the “14 Rooms” exhibition last year? The word on the street is that the Serpentine is in discussion with the creator of (Female Figure) 2014, the young American artist Jordan Wolfson, about a possible exhibition (though a spokeswoman says that it is too soon to provide any details). The work—which was also the centrepiece of the artist’s debut solo show at David Zwirner in New York last year—would surely have to travel to London, the question is from where? All three editions of the limbering lady have sold, one to the collectors Eli and Edythe Broad, and another to Peter Brant (the third owner is keeping private). Either way, we think she deserves a first-class seat.
What to do when the developers come knocking
Squatters protesting the homogenisation of Soho may have claimed a small victory in the saga of the 12 Bar club, which closed its Tin Pan Alley premises in January after developers moved in. With the help of “a squatter, the 159 bus and a Tesco trolley”, the British artist Stuart Semple has managed to procure the original door to the club, which played host to such musical greats as the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and Adele, who had her London debut at the iconic venue. Semple’s readymade work of art is due to go on show at the Fine Art Society on 4 March (until 10 April) as part of an exhibition to look at the social effects of urban regeneration. The gallery is perhaps a far cry from Tin Pan Alley, although a press release describes the Fine Art Society as “an apt venue to discuss this issue… being itself at risk of encroaching developers alongside other commercial galleries within Mayfair”. Let’s hope the gallery doesn’t have to call in the squatters any time soon.
Eliasson lights up Addis Ababa
Olafur Eliasson gets everywhere; the Danish-Icelandic artist has works in some of the most prestigious public and private museum collections worldwide (the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and Berlin’s Boros Collection are particularly keen on the Weather Project pioneer). But this week, Eliasson will present new and early pieces off the beaten (art world) track with the launch of an exhibition, “Time-sensitive activity”, at the Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center at Addis Ababa University on 26 February (until 15 April). “The artist’s first solo exhibition in the region features works revolving around concepts like light, orientation, mirroring, and ephemerality, topics that have informed Eliasson’s practice for years,” says a spokeswoman. A new series, The Complete Sphere Lamp, will illuminate the institution. But why Addis Ababa? Eliasson evidently feels at home in Ethiopia: in 2012, he relocated his “Institute for Spatial Experiments” to the African city and also teaches at the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in the capital.
Cornelia's charitable act
Cornelia Parker is virtually giving away souvenirs linked to her War Room installation at Manchester’s newly reopened Whitworth gallery—in exchange for a minimum donation of £1 to the British Legion. Go to the shop, and this modest contribution will get you a large postcard-size sheet of crimson paper on which petals have been pressed out to make remembrance day poppies, leaving a pattern of voids. In Parker’s installation War Room (until 31 May), all four walls and the roof-like structure above are covered by a double layer of similar strips of cut-outs, giving viewers the impression of being enclosed in a tent or chapel. Asked whether or not the sheets on sale at the Whitworth shop are art, Parker smiles, saying it is up to the buyer to decide.
Art handpicked by Hitler finds better home in Boston
Fourteen treasures once destined for Adolf Hitler’s unrealised Führermuseum have found a far happier home: the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The heirs of the Rothschild banking family donated the works as part of a larger gift of 186 prints, paintings, pieces of furniture and jewellery once owned by their grandparents. Generations of Rothschild women worked for decades to track down the objects. Many were confiscated by the Nazis during the Second World War, stashed in Austrian salt mines for safekeeping and later recovered with the help of Allied “Monuments Men”. Next week, nearly 80 of the works—including ten handpicked by Hitler for his museum in Linz, Austria—will debut in the exhibition “Restoring a Legacy: Rothschild Family Treasures” (1 March-21 June). One painting, a 17th-century portrait of a Dutch nobleman attributed to Nicolaes Maes, offers unique insight into the collection’s dramatic journey. Visitors are invited to view the painting’s verso, where Nazi and Allied inventory numbers appear on the stretcher. Researchers used the numbers to chart the painting’s precise movements between its seizure in Vienna in 1938 and its triumphant return to the Rothschild family in 1947.
Swiss schmoozing helps bag a Gauguin
There was great relief at the Zurich Kunsthaus when a Gauguin painting from Tehran arrived on Thursday afternoon (19 February), just hours before the opening of an ambitious exhibition entitled “Inspiration Japan” (until 10 May). The show had started at the Folkwang Museum in Essen last autumn, but German-Iranian relations are cool and there was no way of securing the loan from Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The Gauguin was left out of the catalogue, because prospects of getting it for Zurich also remained uncertain. Fortunately for the Kunsthaus, Swiss relations with Iran are more cordial. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran proved pivotal in arranging for Still-life with a Japanese print (1889) to come to Zurich. Paperwork delayed its arrival by a few days, but it got there just in time to be unveiled in the first gallery of the exhibition, which looks at the influence of Japanese art on the Impressionists and their followers.
Marina's 'sins' move Mr Walsh
Marina Abramović's world domination continues apace. The ubiquitous performance art star will have a solo show this summer at collector David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania. “Private Archaeology (13 June-5 October) will include her early work with former partner Ulay. Aussies will also be able to experience the “Abramović Method” at Pier 2/3 Walsh Bay in Sydney (24 June-5 July), courtesy of Kaldor Public Art Projects, when Marina will teach participants a series of well-being exercises (lots of deep breathing and looking into space). But it's Walsh’s statement, about why Abramović matters, which really stands out. “Christ died on the Cross for our sins. So the New Testament tells us. Hopefully, I’ll do something worthy of his sacrifice one day. I’ve got real potential when it comes to sin. Marina Abramović seems to operate for all us. Her sins, her excesses, her minimalist, egocentric actions define the boundaries of what it is to be human. I would do the stuff she does if I had the balls. And the brains. And the desperation to understand. I’d rather be represented by a sinner than a saint,” he explains, with characteristic candour.
Not on Will's watch
The BBC's arts editor, Will Gompertz, has cleverly dissected visitor figures for Tate and the National Gallery, pointing out that recent government statistics reveal a fall in UK visitor numbers to both institutions (the official data trumpets that a record 49 million visits were made to the 16 government-sponsored museums and galleries in 2013-14). "Look beneath the surface and a slightly different picture emerges. Much of the boom in attendance is actually being driven by overseas tourists, with domestic visitors generally growing at a much slower rate. And, in the case of The National Gallery and The Tate Galleries, UK visits have actually dropped by a conspicuous 20% since 2008/09," writes Gompertz on his blog. So Tate was apparently powering ahead pre 2010 when a certain bigwig ran its communications department who (just so happened) to go by the name of... Will Gompertz. The sprightly arts commentator joined the BBC late 2009—and has not looked back since.
The art (super) market as seen by Kirtland Ash
The German supermarket chain Lidl has hit the headlines in the UK recently, mainly because the middle class is, apparently, turning to the retailer in a quest for reasonably priced fruit and veg. The Oregon-born artist Kirtland Ash is also keen on the discount chain, and has created a series of portraits depicting women brandishing Lidl bags; the intriguing paintings and collages are on show at Mead Carney gallery in London ("Lidl Women", 19 February-7 March). "Perhaps the Lidl Women, each holding Lidl carrier bags, are a metaphor for the 'baggage we carry' in an age of extreme materialism and consumerism. Or perhaps a view on ever-changing beauty and the quest for the perfect female form," the organisers say. This could start a trend for supermarket art (an installation based on Tesco's "Finest" range must surely be in the pipeline).
Hair dos and don’ts at Museum of Arts and Design
New York’s Museum of Arts and Design is hosting a different kind of artist salon this month—“The Salon: Hair in Art and Design” is a programme of events that looks at the cultural significance of the hair salon in the African diaspora. Artists will join with stylists and academics for three evenings of discussions on how hairdos can express gender politics and racial identities, and the role of the salon as a community forum, “a place not only for grooming, but… for conversation, debate and dialogue”, the museum’s website says. And the best part? Attendees not only explore social issues, they can also get a free hairstyle.
Nasa has a flare for the dramatic
Visitors to the new immersive video room at Nasa’s Goddard Center in Maryland can stand face to face with the sun’s rotating surface in the permanent exhibition “Solarium.” Every second, a Nasa satellite orbiting the sun captures an extremely high-resolution image of its surface that includes wavelengths beyond human vision. Beamed down to earth in binary, the image is reconstituted as a stunning floor-to-ceiling time-lapse projection. Solar flares and atmospheric waves that in reality are up to 50 times the size of Earth blow across the screens in fiery golden hues. “Solarium” is the result of the Solar Dynamics Observatory mission, which studies weather patterns caused by changes on the sun’s surface. The projection room transforms this powerful research tool into an otherworldly art installation.
Björk—and Biesenbach—suffer for art
Ever the hands-on curator, Klaus Biesenbach made the trek to Iceland last summer for the on-location filming of Black Lake, a video for Björk’s song of the same name on her new album Vulnicura and a special commission for her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (8 March-7 June). “It was a summer that was a winter it was so cold,” Biesenbach recalls. “I had my layers on—layers and layers and layers,” he says, marvelling that Björk was able to sing aloud—not lip-synch—“over and over” in a damp chilly cave, barefoot and wearing a metal dress. It seems the result was worth it, capturing the heartbreak of the song, a product of her breakup with Matthew Barney—according to Biesenbach, “somehow you feel the pain”. Today, MoMA released a teaser of the video on YouTube:
Pinocchio’s nose winter-proofed for Vienna
It’s relatively mild in Vienna at the moment but should the mercury plummet the sculpture of Pinocchio puking from a high balcony installed on Mumok’s building won’t pose a threat to museum visitors below. Cosima von Bonin, the artist who created The Italian, 2014, credits the architect and engineer Attila Saygel and his team for coming up with a solution to a serious potential problem. If icicles formed on Pinocchio’s nose and fell off they could have injured someone below. Originally the nose was going to have its own internal heating system “but we weren’t sure about the power supply”, Saygel tells the magazine Frieze d/e. “We solved the problem with a gel developed using nanotechnology,” he reveals. Covered in high-tech gel, Pinocchio’s schnoz will stay ice- and snow-free whatever the winter weather. Saygel says he finds it hard to describe his part in the creative process—he also devised a way to install the balcony. "He saves artists' arses," Von Bonin says.
Koons au Louvre? Non
Jeff Koons is making his presence felt in Paris with a headline-hitting, crowd-pleasing retrospective at the Centre Pompidou (until 27 April). But another major Koons show in the French capital—due to open at none other than the Musée du Louvre early this year—has been scrapped because of “a lack of funding”, says a spokesman for the Centre Pompidou which was behind the Parisian two-hander. Last July, Vanity Fair reported that “at the Louvre, in January 2015, Koons will install a selection of his large-scale balloon sculptures, including Balloon Rabbit, Balloon Swan, and Balloon Monkey, in the 19th-century galleries”. Unfortunately, Jeff's French fans will just have to make do with the Beaubourg gallery extravaganza.
Malevich’s heart of darkness
Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church is known for his harsh views on contemporary art, widely denouncing the “punk prayer” performed by feminist collective Pussy Riot at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012 as blasphemous. But last week he spoke out against a much more sacred symbol of Russian art: Kazimir Malevich. In comments at a bishops’ conference on 2 February, Kirill described the artist who founded the avant-garde Suprematist movement as, in essence, the heart of darkness. “I recognise the place of Malevich, with his Black Square, in contemporary art, because this black and frightening square is a genuine reflection of what was in the soul of this Malevich. And it reflects not only Malevich, it reflects the spirit of the era.” While some may wonder at the patriarch’s sudden turn as an art critic, the backlash is a long-time coming. When Malevich originally showed his Black Square in 1915, he placed it high in the corner of the gallery, just below the ceiling, where an icon would traditionally hang in a Russian Orthodox home.
The Other Art Fair turns to Turk
A new art fair on the horizon will no doubt prompt groans and grumbles from aficionados suffering from "fairtigue". But the Other Art fair is rather different, giving artists the opportunity to sell directly to the public (dealers are a no show). This summer, an offshoot of the artist-led fair will launch in Bristol at the Arnolfini (5-7 June). Two London-based editions, meanwhile, complement the West of England addition; this spring, the Other Art Fair opens in a swanky new Bloomsbury venue, Victoria House (23-26 April), while the October edition continues at the Old Truman Brewery in the East of the capital. The UK artist Gavin Turk, the man behind the child-friendly House of Fairy Tales project (HOFT), will make his presence felt at the fair in London this April. Gavin (and HOFT) will produce two specially commissioned editions for the event, sales of which will support educational work. The hirsute artist is also on the fair's selection committee along with Stephanie Buck, curator of drawings at the Courtauld Gallery.
Gems and photos courtesy of the Al Thani family
In the Gulf it is often difficult to distinguish between private and state collections, but the Al Thani jewels which will be coming on show in London belong to Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, a cousin of the Qatari emir (Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani). One hundred pieces, from the Mughal period to the 20th century, are currently at the Met in New York (until 28 March) and will be exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in November. In the art world it was another Al-Thani cousin, Saud bin Mohammed, who was best known as a buyer, acquiring a huge range of objects until his death in London last November. The late sheikh will be feted at the eponymous Al-Thani photographic awards ceremony in London on 26 February; the notorious art buyer served as Qatar’s minister of culture from 1997 until 2005 and oversaw an ambitious museum building programme for the oil and gas-rich Gulf state. “The wish to communicate with people around the globe, beyond racial and cultural borders through the universally appreciated photographic language encouraged HE Sheikh Saoud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani to expand the contest carrying his name from a small regional event founded in 2000 to a worldwide activity in 2014,” says the invite. His highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al-Thani is behind the soirée; a prize fund of $80,000 is up for grabs.
Marlene & Luc buddy up
The spotlight is on Marlene Dumas and Luc Tuymans in London this week: a retrospective of works by Amsterdam-based Dumas has just opened at Tate Modern ("The Image as Burden", until 10 May) while Tuymans has a show of new paintings at David Zwirner gallery ("The Shore", until 2 April). Tuymans was seen pondering over his fellow artist's striking depictions of Naomi Campbell and Princess Diana at the Tate private view earlier this week. But the pair go back a long way: Marlene painted a fetching portrait of Luc for a 2013 exhibition at Zeno X gallery in Antwerp (The Artist and his Model). The press blurb tells us that the painting "plays with the notion of twice, the second, the double and in this sense also with the title of this exhibition ["Twice"]. She reflects on her position as an artist and the relation between the artist and the model. Here, Luc Tuymans appears as her model." In a neat twist, we see in the background a faint outline of one of his most famous subjects, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who abdicated in 2013.
A princely helping hand for Arts & Crafts landmark
Prince Charles has stepped in to help save Limnerslease, the former house and studio of the celebrated Victorian artist George Frederic Watts and his wife, the ceramicist Mary Seton Watts. The grade II-listed property in the village of Compton in Surrey is an Arts & Crafts gem, filled with fireplaces and ceilings designed by Mary. The Prince of Wales became Royal Patron of the Limnerslease appeal in 2011, and last month hosted a lavish reception at Clarence House in support of the Watts Gallery Trust’s campaign to safeguard the 19th-century residence (the first phase of the £5m project involves restoring the studio wing at Limnerslease; the idyllic Arts & Crafts hub also includes Watts’s gallery, pottery and chapel). Perdita Hunt, the director of the Watts Gallery, says: “The acquisition and restoration of Limnerslease would be a major step towards the creation of an artists’ village in Compton.” Time is ticking though; the trust must raise £1m by March 2016 or the arty abode will go on the market.
Artist to lead parade through Louisiana
There will be dancing in the streets of Shreveport, Louisiana, with a parade led by the artist and dancer Nick Cave, which is due to take place this autumn. The Shreveport Regional Arts Council has been awarded a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for Cave to carry out a residency with Shreveport Common, a revitalisation programme based in a deprived neighbourhood. He will work with local performing and visual artists to produce a “highly costumed, highly choreographed parade”, says Pam Atchison, the executive director of the council. Cave’s work is “not only about beautiful dramatic costumes that knock your socks off, but really about how those costumes enable anonymity and a dialogue for social change”, Atchison says. —L.v.S.
It’s a busy year for octogenarian artist Rose Wiley
Virtually unknown five years ago, Rose Wiley, 81, has been steadily pinging the art world’s radar. She came to the attention of a broader contemporary art public with a solo show at Tate Britain in 2013 and the following year won the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize. And on Monday, she was elected a Senior Academician of the Royal Academy. Current projects include an ongoing exhibition at the Wolfsberg Museum in Germany, a solo presentation with Union Gallery at New York’s Volta Fair in March, and another at the Cologne Art Fair in April. There will also be a solo show at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin and at the commercial gallery Thomas Erben New York in the spring. Hans Ulrich Obrist on a recent visit to her studio declared some of her works to be masterpieces, Wiley said in an interview, though she conceded that her style, a carefully constructed artless naivety, doesn’t please all tastes. A particular example is the Evening Standard art critic Brian Sewell, who referred to her display in Tate as “scribbles, scrawls and daubs”. “I don’t know as much about Poussin as he does,” admits Wiley, who trained at the Royal College of Art. “But I know enough to know that Poussin is not the only pebble on the beach.”