One small step for artists
How did the moon landing affect land art? An exhibition at Various Small Fires in Los Angeles (2 November-7 December) seeks to answer that question by bringing together work from the land art pioneers Robert Smithson and Michelle Stuart and contemporary artists including Travor Paglen and Katie Pearson. Among the featured works is Smithson’s proposal for Lake Edge Crescent from 1972, which sought to transform a depleted Midwestern strip mine into an earthwork resembling the moon’s barren surface. Both Smithson and Stuart were in their prime during the 1969 moon landing and criticised the impulse to strip the moon of its mystery. “There was a strange demoralisation… that they didn’t discover little green men, or something,” Smithson has said. The accomplishment has not stopped contemporary artists from taking inspiration from the moon, however. A new work by Pearson sends an actual crated moon rock into “orbit” around the Earth 30 times in one year—via UPS. Curious viewers can track the progress of Second Moon with a free app.
Se habla Español
Want to brush up on your Spanish skills? Two New York galleries can help. On 5 November, Gabriel Orozco will transform the third floor of the Upper East Side’s Marian Goodman Gallery into a classroom for a new project titled Spanish Lessons (through 22 November). The Mexican artist has invited writers and artists including Damián Ortega and Abraham Cruzvillegas to lead discussions and workshops about the Spanish language. (Twenty-minute improvised Spanish lessons will also be offered four times a day.) Further downtown, The Art Newspaper’s own Artoonist Pablo Helguera has built a Spanish-language bookstore inside the Chelsea gallery Kent Fine Art (through 8 November). Visitors are invited to pay what they wish for any one of the 10,000 second-hand tomes, which range from Marxist essays to law manuals. Vamos!
In 1995, Marina Abramović filmed herself eating an onion and crying, with pieces of the vegetable all over her face. In a voiceover, she rattles off a list of complaints: “I’m so tired of waiting for endless passport controls”; “I’m tired of more and more career decisions”; “I’m tired of being ashamed of my nose being too big, of my ass being too large.” A self-described “citizen action group” is also tired, but they’re tired of Marina. The Marina Abramović Retirement Fund of America (Marfa for short!) is currently raising funds to prevent the artist from making any further work. The joke project—all donated money will actually go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America—cites a number of fake works the artist is supposedly due to perform. One is a presentation in which Marina will eat “onions for 36-hours in front of a Chipotle Mexican Grill franchise in a to-be-determined Midwestern city.”
Performance art, click to buy
If you can buy groceries, books and even a car online, why not performance art? This week, the online auction house Paddle8 is offering a new, original performance by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson as part of a benefit auction for Performa, New York’s performance biennial. Sad sad sad, 2013 (est $40,000-$50,000) was developed especially for the sale. Kjartansson and his frequent collaborator Davíð Thor Jónsson have pledged to travel anywhere in the world to perform a two-hour concert of the saddest songs they can think of—a sure-to-be-depressing mix of country, blues and poetic German lieder. “The setting should be intimate and the folks attending should be seated in a comfortable way,” Kjartansson wrote in a description of the work. “With my consultation the buyer can document the performance for his collection.” The buyer is expected to cover travel costs for the two artists, as well as to provide a piano for Jónsson.
Turner Prize: the verdict
Nothing whips up the critics, and the general public, like the Turner Prize, the UK's premier contemporary art gong organised by Tate. This year the Turner Prize show has decamped to Londonderry in Northern Ireland (Derry is the UK City of Culture 2013). It opened yesterday at the former Army barracks at Ebrington and includes a life class set up by David Shrigley, incorporating a larger-than-life naked, polyester mannequin standing over a carefully placed bucket; paintings of fictional black subjects by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; an immersive film installation, Wantee (2013) by French-born Laure Prouvost, based on the life of her fictional grandfather, and Tino Sehgal's This Exchange, which prompts visitors to discuss issues relating to capitalism and free-market economies with live participants. Adrian Searle, writing in The Guardian pulls no punches, saying: "I like Prouvost's sense of fun, the languorousness and silliness of what she does, and her French mangling of the English language, but as with Yiadom-Boakye I keep thinking of other artists who tread similar territory." He plumps for Sehgal, concluding: "He makes us think. In exchange, he should win the Turner prize." In contrast, Zoe Pilger is unconvinced by the Berlin-based artist's "constructed situation". "So we're talking about the market economy. So what? The exchange in itself is neither poignant nor banal," she says in The Independent. For her, Prouvost would be a "rightful winner". The Belfast Telegraph, meanwhile, canvassed local residents, such as Seamus Coyle, who said: "For the first time in a long while I think they've got the right mix of subjects." But he was unfazed by Shrigley's micturating life-class model. "I don't think the man with the bucket is controversial at all. I came in myself and did a drawing; in fact I think one of my drawings is on the wall somewhere in there, it's not very good, mind you." The winner will receive £25,000 and the result will be announced on 2 December.
Love and loss in New Jersey
Felix Gonzalez-Torres 1991 billboard work showing the artist’s rumpled bedclothes will be shown in 12 locations around New Jersey this month for an outdoor-only exhibition organised by the Princeton University Art Museum. The locations for “Felix Gonzalez-Torres: ‘Untitled’” (21 October-16 December) have been chosen “in keeping with the artist’s desire that his images be shown in everyday locations, where people from different backgrounds who might not ever visit a museum would encounter them”, the museum says—though one work will be on show just outside in the main plaza. Gonzalez-Torres’s partner died of Aids the same year the work was created (the artist himself succumbed to the disease in 1996), and many see the work as an elegy. “Apart from its sheer beauty, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work invites us to consider issues of love and searing loss, and to become more aware of the meaning of private emotion and public space,” says the museum director’s James Steward in a statement.
When the Met met TED
The widely popular TED talks took an artistic spin this weekend when the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted an all-day TED conference under the theme “Icons”, with curators, artists and writers invited to reflect on the subject. Some were serious, even sobering. The writer Andrew Solomon, for example, gave a lucid lecture on depression with a Goya print in the museum collection as a guide. But much of the rest of the event was humorous and light, such as the illustrator Maira Kalman, who gave a talk about her family history. (She once told her mother she should be put into a mental institution. The response: “What are you, crazy?”) In between, the Costume Institute’s curator Andrew Bolton spoke about his experiences organising the Met’s popular Alexander McQueen retrospective and the artist James Nares showed his dialogue-free film Street, which was on view at the Met this past spring. The Met's director, Thomas Campbell, remarked that it may have been the first time a TED talk was given without words.
Art musings over muesli in NYC
The art salon, that place for, lively informed debate about all things arty, is alive and well in New York. "AM at the JM", organised by the Jewish Museum, takes place at cafés around NYC at the sobering hour of 7AM. This monthly breakfast salon for the 21st century features high-profile arts and cultural figures in conversation with Jens Hoffmann, the deputy director for exhibitions and public programmes at the Jewish Museum. The next pancake-fuelled salon is scheduled to take place 4 November at Café Grumpy on the Lower East Side, with the artist Claire Fontaine on hand to debate pressing art world issues. Coffee and pastries are complimentary (caffeine and sugar always keep things flowing).
You can never be too safe or too shiny
Never in the field of human endeavour has so much been owed to so many for the safekeeping and security of works by Jeff Koons. A series of works on display on Gagosian’s stand at Frieze London are in safe hands, with a bevy of muscular “bodyguards” close by should fair-goers dare to leave their fingerprints on the US artist’s glossy sculptures, such as Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta), 1994-2007. Two particularly stony-faced guards stand within spitting distance of a Tweetie Pie piece, which must be the first time these custodians have been called upon to protect a cartoon character. If any member of the public comes close, “we tell them to back off”, warned a heavy standing in front of Koons’s hanging kitten.
Separated at birth
Damien Hirst’s monumental bronze sculptures chronicling the gestation of a human foetus, which were recently unveiled in Doha, have set tongues wagging. The sight of Marc Quinn trawling the aisles of Frieze sparked a lively conversation among fair-goers about the family resemblance between Hirst’s “The Miraculous Journey” and Quinn’s own “Evolution” series. These flesh-pink marble sculptures also (you guessed it) represent foetuses at different stages of development, and were on show recently at the San Giorgio Foundation in Venice. Quinn, meanwhile, revealed his next project: a series of works depicting ham joints that are sure to make Hong Kong foodies salivate when they are unveiled at White Cube’s China-based gallery next month.
Strike a pose
The collector Anita Zabludowicz struck a matching pose at the Sunday Art Fair with her latest acquisition, a similarly feisty lady painted by the Latvian artist Ella Kruglyanskaya that she had just snapped up from Studio Voltaire for $20,000. Expect to see more of these vigorously executed foxy femme fatales at forthcoming fairs, as the artist has just been signed to Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. We fervently hope that the chic and perpetually game Mrs Zab might run herself up a matching frock as well.
They may not let auction houses show in Frieze, but this hasn’t prevented Brett Gorvy, Christie’s chairman and international head of post-war and contemporary art, from indulging in a little discreet marketing, striding through the aisles sporting a chic tote that flags up Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange), the prize lot in his forthcoming November sale in New York with an estimate of $35m to $55m. Devotion to duty is the order of the day at all times, especially when you have a multi-million-dollar pup to shift.
Getting a little handsy
While it may be hands off at the Gagosian stand (see above right), it is most certainly hands on at the Touch Art Fair on Marylebone High Street (until 20 October), where visitors are encouraged to stroke and feel the works. The organisers hope that pieces by artists such as Steve Chang Hee Lee and Rhiannon Palmer will be experienced in a more tactile, “intimate” way. A party from the Royal London Society for Blind People certainly enjoyed the private view, though it soon became obvious that their guide dogs were just as keen on caressing the sculptures. Indeed, the curator Dino Delavega says that the amiable animals could not resist licking and cuddling a gargantuan bronze skull kindly loaned by Jake and Dinos Chapman. That makes two tails wagging for the brothers’ work—the doggie equivalent of a thumbs-up.
Hennessy hearts Hermione
Those in the know in the art world have come to love Hennessy Youngman, the YouTube sensation who hands out high-minded art criticism in hip-hop lingo—so we were thrilled to discover that works by the artist behind the online persona are on sale at Frieze London. Salon 94 is offering wall text pieces by Jayson Scott Musson that look and sound, at times, just like Hennessy’s rants, including a rather explicit one detailing sexual intercourse with Hermione from the Harry Potter films. Meanwhile, Musson recently came out with a new character called Franklin Vivray, a fatherly painter of landscapes who bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Bob Ross, the always mellow afro-topped doyen of daytime TV who taught America how to paint.
There was brisk business on the White Columns stand at the Sunday Art Fair for Jeremy Deller’s ambiguously charged slogan Prince Harry Kills Me. The work was originally meant to hang outside the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale, but was withdrawn for fear that the equivocal statement might provoke attacks on the British Council’s offices abroad or on UK troops in Afghanistan. The row of red dots, however, confirms that there have been no such qualms about its reincarnation as an edition of 50 for a mere £125—which, according to White Columns’s director, Matthew Higgs, also includes shipping to anywhere on the planet.
Womb with a view
Everyone wants to climb back into the womb sometimes, especially while trudging the unforgiving aisles of an art fair, but we wonder what Freud would say about Don and Mera Rubell’s double interaction with their daughter Jennifer’s monumental self-portrait on Stephen Friedman’s stand. The sculpture depicts the artist, naked and nine months pregnant but with a large cavity inside her bump (vacated a year ago by its original occupant, her son Max), into which visitors are encouraged to climb for the ultimate—if somewhat public—in utero experience. “I will nurture you, I will sacrifice all for you, I will do everything in my power on this Earth to give you whatever it is you are looking for,” the artist declares. “I will love you, whoever you are, whenever you come, whatever you think of me, forever.” Mommy knows best.
Take a seat
Ever fancied snuggling up to Amanda Sharp or having a quick lie-down with Matthew Slotover? Or, for that matter, sitting on Jean Pigozzi or putting your feet up on Larry Gagosian? Then look no further than Gavin Brown’s booth, where Rob Pruitt and his studio assistants have covered two Ikea double-seater sofas with an abundance of cheeky drawings that take playful pleasure in parodying and poking fun at some of the art world’s most illustrious figures—including the artist himself, who appears with a hangdog expression and the self-deprecating caption: “As long as I have a face, you’ll always have a place to sit.”
Nothing grabs people’s attention like four youths draped in a black sheet. Cue James Lee Byars’s live art installation Four in a Dress, 1967, at Michael Werner Gallery, which is stopping even the most hardened art-fair veterans in their tracks. But the gallery’s representative Gordon VeneKlasen reveals that another, more ambitious performance piece by Byars—Ten in a Hat, which features a row of individuals walking under a single jaunty chapeau—was due to be shown at Frieze London before “health and safety issues” made it a no-no. A version of Four in a Dress, available for $400,000 at Frieze London, will go on show in an exhibition of Byars’s work at the new Museo Jumex in Mexico City, which opens next month. Eugenio López, the heir to the Jumex fruit juice and foods conglomerate, who is behind the new museum, obviously likes Byars’s blanket statement.
You’ve heard of jogger’s nipple, but now there’s another ailment affecting runners sprinting through Regent’s Park: gargoylitis erectus. The impressive member on a 15th-century English gargoyle, on show in the Frieze sculpture park, is apparently distracting bright and bouncy individuals on their morning run. We just hope all that head-turning doesn’t lead to any jogger pile-ups.
The long road home
Top prize for the most splendid Frieze-week bash must go to Lisson Gallery, which celebrated its straddling of contemporary and Old Masterly markets with a sit-down feast for 300 beneath Rubens’s spectacular ceiling in Banqueting House, Whitehall. This was accompanied by an eclectic modern-ish musical medley—Bruce Springsteen and Marc Bolan, anyone?—courtesy of gallery artists Dan Graham, Richard Long and Rodney Graham, and rounded off with a sound and vision extravaganza by the Swedes Hans Berg and Nathalie Djurberg, commissioned specially for the occasion and projected onto a screen erected over the royal throne. But along with the wine and music, the revelations also began to flow, most notably from Long. He may be back in the Lisson fold after more than two decades, but he confessed that he only joined the gallery 30 years ago because its proximity to Paddington station made it convenient for catching the train home to Bristol.
With all our public spaces in a constant state of high alert due to potential acts of terrorism, it is becoming ever more complicated for artists to make work for high-profile sites. However, Richard Wilson, who is currently completing a giant, 70m-long suspended sculpture for Heathrow Airport’s new £2.5bn Terminal 2, due to open next summer, reveals that his 77-tonne aluminium piece has been fully analysed by a team of experts to ensure it can survive a bomb blast. So while it may symbolise a looping, spinning stunt plane, we can be reassured that there is no risk it will come crashing down on our heads.
Never mind the tooth fairy
Keenly inspecting the rare 18th- and 19th-century Polynesian ivi po’o body ornaments on the stand of Galerie Meyer Oceanic Art, which sprout tufts of human hair, was the Moscow-based financier Charlotte Philipps, who revealed that she has a particular penchant for body parts. In fact, one of her prized possessions is a necklace made from extracted human wisdom teeth. “I persuaded a New York dentist, who shall remain nameless, to save me a bag,” she reveals. Although she baulked somewhat at the toggles’ asking price of €22,000 to €27,000, she quickly cheered up on discovering that the gallery also has a stock of teeth discarded by cannibals on sale for considerably less.
Not only does Johnny Van Haeften have a Class A Brueghel that has been owned by the same family for 400 years, Mrs Van Haeften also has the frock to match. She was seen sporting a chic silk shift printed with a painting of the same period by Brueghel’s Dutch contemporary Hendrick Avercamp, picked up from the Rijksmuseum’s shop. No word, however, on whether the private collector who has put a reserve on the £6m painting gets the dress thrown in as well.
Some of the guests who have gathered to inspect Hurvin Anderson’s new paintings at the Thomas Dane Gallery have been somewhat mystified by what appears to be a jovial departure by the artist into text-based work, taped to the wall of Dane’s first-floor space at 3 Duke Street, St James’s. However, we can reveal that the piece (above), which has been adopted as a Frieze-week rallying cry by Dane’s employees across his stands at Frieze London and Frieze Masters, was, in fact, a gift to the gallerist from the collector and philanthropist Dame Janet de Botton.
From critic to curator
Has one of the art world’s most mischievous poachers turned gamekeeper? The British film-maker and critic Ben Lewis has made some searing documentaries about the underbelly of the art market, but has now turned his hand to organising a show for the online contemporary art retailer Eyestorm. As a “guest curator”, Lewis will, the website says, “bring us a few artists whose work he both admired and thought would ‘last the distance’”. Lewis’s expert eye is evident in his choice of three prints (all available on the website) by Adam Chodzko, Doug Fishbone and Lia Anna Hennig. “Eyestorm are hoping I will lead them away from the skulls, flowers and butterflies, from the gold leaf, street art and photorealism, to higher pastures of contemporary wonderfulness,” he says, with characteristic candour.
Ride 'em cowboy
First a penis, now a hobby horse… the limelight-loving Parisian dealer Emmanuel Perrotin happily straddled a Dobbin-esque creation last week to take visitors around a show in the Tripostal exhibition space in Lille (until
12 January 2014), staged to mark his 25 years as a dealer. Microphone in hand, his suit jacket flapping over the top of the gee-gee (made by the artist collective Gelitin), Perrotin showed off works by some of the artists he has worked with, from Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami to Tatiana Trouvé and Paola Pivi. Perrotin is no stranger to dressing up: in 1995, he spent six weeks dressed in a fuzzy pink costume resembling both a rabbit and a giant penis for Maurizio Cattelan’s show in his Paris space. You can’t say the man is afraid to make a dick of himself.
At Frieze, the grass really is greener
The artist Richard Woods has a fresh approach to rolling the lawn on the other side of the Frieze sculpture park. His site-specific work Grass Painted Green, 1998-2013 (Alan Cristea Gallery), is just that—a ten sq. m block of hallowed Regent’s Park turf rendered even more verdant with the help of several cans of Dulux matt emulsion paint. Woods reveals that the vivid “Woodland Fern” shade was specially selected to be the “least autumnal”, with its unseasonal hue emphasising the imposition of harsh industrial culture on the fresh face of nature. While stressing that the work is able to withstand repeated exposure to October downpours, the artist is also eager to reassure any concerned environmentalists that, because the paint is water-based, the green sward will suffer no long-term harm.
Grab your security blanket
Hard-nosed art collectors keen to get their claws into top-end pieces could do worse this week than head to an altogether warmer and fuzzier art event over at the tailor’s shop Timothy Everest, near Spitalfields market. This top-notch clothier is hosting a show of paintings by Sandro Kopp (15-19 October), which depict soft toys owned by family members and friends (perhaps Tilda Swinton’s teddy will pop up, as the German artist is the paramour of the well-known actress). But there is an extra-special reason for Frieze veterans to head east: Camilla Nicholls, the fair’s former head of communications, has written an accompanying catalogue text in her new role as a psychotherapist. “The richly layered paintings in ‘Fiercely Loved’ are of soft toys: Goully the monkey, Liony, Snoopy and other cloth, wool and fur comforters and confidants,” writes Nicholls, who now runs her own practice called EC2 Therapy. “[Soft toys] possess the power to provoke memories from childhood, and even infancy, in us all,” she adds. We feel ourselves regressing already.
Not my reality, says Met director
Thomas Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is given a light grilling in the “Questionnaire” slot of the Frieze Masters magazine. The museum supremo bats away weighty questions about his favourite art historians and inspiring works in the Met’s collection, conceding that “we should have more American Indian and Latin American art”. But one line of enquiry about “an art form you don’t relate to” brings an unexpected response from Campbell. So, which style stumps the intellectual—is it 17th-century Islamic art or Ukrainian Suprematism? “Reality TV,” the scholar reveals.
There’s been a flurry of interest in Elmgreen & Dragset’s giant hoarding outside the V&A, which offers “a new residential development in a prime heritage location” for sale from a “Crown Investment Company”. Never mind that this conspicuous signage is part of the mischievous duo’s latest site-specific installation, in which they have converted the V&A’s textile galleries into the fictional flat of an impoverished, retired architect forced to sell his inherited home and possessions (many of which are sourced from the museum’s own holdings). It seems that a stubborn group of high-end art lovers refuse to believe that they cannot buy the apartment outright. “We keep saying it’s not for sale, but they just won’t take no for an answer, and when we say no, they just keep offering more and more ridiculous amounts of money,” Elmgreen reveals. So what is the artists’ revenge on those who are obdurately blind to the “strong political comment” of their piece? “We are thinking of accepting the highest offer and then just sending them the billboard,” he says.
On a (loo) roll
There was something distinctly lavatorial about the recent launch of “Open Heart Surgery” at 180 The Strand, a bleakly beautiful 1970s Brutalist building overlooking the Thames. The exhibition, which includes more than 200 works by 30 artists, is organised by the Moving Museum, a non-profit venture. Crowds pored over top-notch works by artist such as James Capper and Broomberg & Chanarin, but most were taken by a 1970s-style drag queen strutting his stuff in a gutted toilet block. The hirsute, lithe ladyboy, fetchingly named Jacqui Potato (right), was the star attraction in the artist Matthew Smith’s Glam Rock Bog installation. “I want the toilet to be a place where anything goes; where you can skive off and have a cigarette, like in school,” Smith says. The artist plans to take his passion for WCs a step further by releasing an audio recording of 40 toilets flushing across the capital (London Toilets is part of a box set produced by the Vinyl Factory, the company backing the show). But this loo-bound quest wasn’t without its trials. “I recorded the flushes at my local swimming pool and at Euston station. But at St Pancras, I inadvertently recorded someone doing a number two,” he says, looking pained at the excretory recollection.
Art-world stalwarts know that fair-tigue (and now fair-itis) are common ailments among the pale collectors, curators and art advisers who trudge the aisles at art fairs. But the London-based gallery Limoncello is hoping to add some sparkle to the slog by bringing in alien beings rarely seen on galleries’ stands: the artists themselves. Sean Edwards, Jack Strange and Jesse Wine are, says Limoncello’s founder, Rebecca May Marston, under strict instructions to be at the gallery’s booth in the Focus section of Frieze London at all times to discuss their works—or “we’ll sack them”, she archly adds. Marston explains why she feels artists should endure art fairs: “We find that fair-goers really want to meet them.” And should the artists start to flag, the dealer has brewed a potent pick-me-up: none other than the fruity lemon liqueur limoncello. So they’ll not only live by the gallery name, but get merry by it also.
Diving off the deep end
The California-born artist Mike Bouchet wanted his first exhibition at Marlborough Chelsea to make a splash—literally. Visitors to “Mike Bouchet: Flood” (11 October-9 November) are greeted by cardboard and fiberglass sculptures of distorted Jacuzzis. Named after figures such as Lauren Bush and David Kissinger, the works “send up Minimalism and luxury”, according to the gallery. Best known for his failed attempt to float a suburban home in the canals of Venice during last year’s Biennale, Bouchet may find luck with more modest vessels. The spirit of revelry continued after the opening last Friday at a nearby rooftop, where Bouchet hosted a private performance featuring female bodybuilders swimming in a pool filled with the artist’s homemade diet cola formula.
Breaking the ice
Lenin, the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, has become the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker to host a contemporary art exhibition. Now decommissioned and docked in the Arctic city of Murmansk, the ship that hosted Nikita Khrushchev, Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro in its heyday is showing work by Russian and Austrian artists as part of the Fifth Moscow Biennale. The vessel is still controlled by Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation, which has been surprisingly supportive of the project, said Simon Mraz, Austria’s cultural attaché in Russia, who organised the show, simply titled “Lenin: Icebreaker” (10 January 2014). Its grand opening was held two days before environmental activists from Greenpeace tried to board an Arctic oil platform operated by Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled energy monopoly. They were soon arrested and charged with piracy. Among the works on show is “An Organized Unfurling of the Black Flag of Chaos,” by Leonid Tishkov, who has spoken out in support of the activists. “It’s the Arctic flag and it’s a pirate flag,” Mraz told The Art Newspaper, although he added that he assured the ship’s wary captain that the flag simply depicts a snowflake. Sketches and models of the works in Murmansk are on display through 13 October at the DEVE Gallery in Moscow, and after Russia, the works on the Lenin travel to the Lentos Art Museum in Linz, Austria from 28 February to 25 May 2014, and the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York next September.
The best of beefcake through the ages
All those pecs and abs on show in the exhibition “Masculine/Masculine” at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (until 2 January 2014) might get visitors a little hot under the collar. The show, which surveys the naked male form though the ages, includes prime examples of ripped beefcake by artists such as Gustave Moreau and Auguste Rodin. But credit must go to the museum management who secured sponsorship from Slendertone, the market leaders in muscle toning products, from “ab belts” to “bottom toning” kits (yes, you too could look like a sculpted Adonis in the style of Pierre & Gilles). A different version of the exhibition held at the Leopold Museum in Vienna made headlines earlier this year after protests forced the Austrian museum to censor its posters. The Leopold museum even hosted a tour of the show for 300 nudists, though a Musée d’Orsay spokeswoman declined to say if the French museum would follow suit (certainly adds new meaning to the term “museum member”).
Think of the schoolchildren
The Russian government has moved to quell fears that museums would no longer be free to schoolchildren and university students. “No one is planning to introduce any fees,” Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky told the official RIA Novosti news agency last month. “There will not be any infringement on the rights of schoolchildren.” An outcry that had resulted in anger at the government and petitions to keep free admission was stoked by a new federal law on the financing of Russia’s education that did not specify whether the benefit would be continued. Local officials in Moscow and St Petersburg rushed to announce that museums would remain free to students, as did the State Hermitage Museum.
National Trust’s big bother
Bess of Hardwick’s Elizabethan home in Derbyshire is renowned for its abundance of glass windows and impeccable pedigree; Chartwell boasts lush gardens and the personal effects of Winston Churchill; and the Big Brother house comes with its very own, um, diary room. The house made famous by the popular UK reality tv programme temporarily joined a list of 300 historically significant properties managed by the National Trust. “The fact that the residence is not, say, a sublime Robert Adam country house like Osterley Park, for example, does not necessarily make it less interesting to the National Trust. The fact that the garden is not the parterre at Cliveden but is more like the astro-turfed gardening section of a DIY store actually makes it more relevant, or at least more comprehensible, to modern society,” the Trust said in a statement. Less impressed with the choice was the former MP Ann Widdecombe, who is no stranger to reality television herself as she made a series of unforgettable appearances on Strictly Come Dancing in 2010. She told Sky News: “I’m not going to burn my Trust member card or man the barricades, but this is ridiculous. I can see what they are trying to do, they don’t want it to be just about old people traipsing around stately homes. But there were better options than this. It’s just wrong.” Despite the misgivings of some, tickets, priced between £14 and £16, were quick to sell out for a special two-day public opening in late September.
Rice work if you can get it
In their installation “Tomorrow” at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Danish-Norwegian duo Elmgreen and Dragset transform the museum’s textile galleries into a remarkably detailed five-room apartment belonging to fictional, disillusioned architect. Myriad objects from the V&A collections, flea markets and Scandinavian furniture stores are placed in the rooms with the pair’s characteristic wit and pathos, but in the incongruously contemporary kitchen sits a pristine and particularly special white cube. “This is a rice cooker that I’ve designed together with Wallpaper,” Michael Elmgreen told The Art Newspaper on a tour of the show. The hot pot appeared in the magazine last summer, complete with a recipe for “prawn sambal” from the artist. “It’s the prototype and we’re in negotiations with different companies about manufacturing it.” The idea emerged from Elmgreen’s travels in Asia. “Suddenly all the wealthy, middle-class people have these Euro-style designer kitchens,” he says. “But they still have the rice cookers that look like an old hoover, and they’re there on the surface because they use them every day.” After some research, he discovered there were no existing designer rice-cookers. “It was too tempting,” he laughs. And to fit with any interior decorating style, the cooker will come in three surfaces—brushed aluminium, white plastic and wood.
Saatchi, Eton and the Russian connection
Charles Saatchi has evidently struck up a rapport with the high-profile Russian collectors Igor and Natasha Tsukanov. Last year the London-based collector opened a show of works at his Chelsea space drawn from the couple's eponymous Tsukanov Family Foundation, "Breaking The Ice: Moscow Art 1960-80s", which closed in March. Under a new five-year partnership, the foundation will help organise a series of exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery dedicated to contemporary artists from post-Soviet states. The Tsukanovs are very keen on England, funding scholarships at several prestigious UK private schools. The Tsukanov family will contribute at least two scholarships to help meet the "demonstrated financial need (up to 100% of fees and some extras)" of exceptionally talented Etonians with either Russian or former Soviet Union heritage, says the website for Eton, Britain’s most exclusive independent school located in Windsor. Meanwhile, Igor Tsukanov, an investment banker, unashamedly describes his strategy for snapping up works by major 20th-century Russian artists, saying online: "As a result of such competition amongst buyers at the open auctions, I exceeded the world record for the price paid for the best works by artists such as O. Rabin, O. Tselkov, M. Shvartsman, E. Steinberg, E. Rukhin, B. Vassilev and a number of others whose work I wanted to incorporate into the collection. There are no regrets about this for, in my view, Russian artists of this period are as yet not overpriced."
Mad Men's Rothko moment
The creator of the television programme Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, discussed his affection for historic diaries, the sad state of culture in the US and the power of visual art during a talk at the New Museum in New York last week. The writer and producer is the fourth speaker in the museum’s annual Visionaries series, funded by the dealer Barbara Gladstone. “We’re in a moment of low self esteem as a culture and a country,” Weiner said during his discussion with the author A.M. Holmes. “Conversations are one-directional, and people are becoming isolated and lonely.” Visual art is capable of uniting people in substantive conversation, Weiner said. He recalled a Mad Men episode in which a group of employees sneaks into a partner’s office to get a closer look at his new Rothko painting. (“It’s like looking into something very deep,” says one ad man. “You could fall in.”) “There was some controversy in the writers’ room about the depth of that conversation,” Weiner said. Do people really have discussions like that, some writers asked? “They do in front of a Rothko,” Weiner replied.
Tracey's new Miami line: towels, t-shirts and flip-flops
Tracey Emin gets everywhere (have you seen the advertisements for UK store Marks & Spencer?), and now the UK artist is due to make a splash in Miami. The ubiquitous Margate-born art celebrity will launch a show of her neon works at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), North Miami, in December (until 9 March 2014). Emin will also unveil a new large-scale neon sculpture in MoCA’s courtyard, but we're taken with her limited-edition accessories created especially for the Florida show, commissioned by the museum and Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort. "The unisex flip-flops feature Emin’s neon work I Kiss You (2004) on the bottom of the sole, which leaves an imprint of the image on the sand," says the press blurb. And how much will these striking beach items cost? A towel is $95; flip-flops $40, and t-shirt $50.
An arty 'urban oasis' for the Windy City
Construction has started on Chicago’s most talked about public art project. The 606 connects four neighbourhoods in the northwest of Chicago, and is designed to be an “urban oasis”: a 2.7-mile trail and park system that combines public art, landscaping, bike paths, performance spaces and an observatory above a spiralling earthwork. Frances Whitehead, a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has been appointed the lead artist in the project’s design team. She says, however, that The 606 is different from the Manhattan High Line and other high-profile park projects because the organisers “insisted that artists be involved at every stage”. The first stage comprises “embedded artworks” that Whitehead is designing for different entry points. Several commissions with international artists will be announced soon, she adds, while open calls are forthcoming and will be ongoing for the next two years. The new public park, which costs around $91m, is due to launch autumn 2014. The money comes from a mix of federal, city, county and park district funds, as well as a fundraising campaign overseen by the non-profit organisation The Trust for Public Land.