A gift for the afterlife
An eccentric Brazilian entrepreneur challenged the old adage “you can’t take it with you when you die” by burying his new, £300,000 Bentley Flying Spur in his garden so he can drive in style in the afterlife. The Sao Pãulo-based Count Scarpa got the idea by watching a recent television show on the ancient Egyptians. “I watched the film of the pharaohs and after seeing how they were buried with their treasures I decided that I wanted to copy them and bury my most precious item, which is my car,” he says. Pictures of the impeccably dressed Count holding a shovel next to a large hole and operating an excavator were posted on his Facebook page earlier this month. As it turns out, the stunt was not as selfish as it sounds, as Scarpa revealed it was all meant to bring attention to the importance of organ donors. “I did not bury my car, but everyone thought it was absurd when I said I was going to. It’s absurd that people bury their organs, which can save many lives. Nothing is more valuable. Be a donor, tell your family.”
The women who watch Russia's treasures
On a visit to St Petersburg in 2008, the San Francisco-based photographer Andy Freeberg was struck by the elderly women who watch over art treasures at Russia’s museums. These dour custodians are called smotritelnitsy, which literally translates as “women who watch”, and they often appear severe, not out of ill will or indifference, but possibly out of devotion. For some it is a dream job that allows them to be close to works of art that they cherish, by artists like Ilya Repin, Henri Matisse, or Konstantin Malevich. In a series entitled “Guardians”, Freeberg chronicled the smotritelnitsy at various venerable institutions including St Petersburg’s State Hermitage and State Russian museums. In spontaneous and posed shots, he shows how the women had themselves turned into works of art, or “stepped out of the paintings”, as one visitor noted at the first Russian exhibition of “Guardians”, which recently launched at the State Museum of the History of St Petersburg (until 13 October). Freeberg personally handed over copies of the books to the women at the Tretyakov Gallery. At the branch for 20th-century art, he found only one of the guards he had photographed, Svetlana Makhnyova, who has worked at the museum for nearly 20 years. “It was very pleasant for us,” Makhnyova said of Freeberg’s portrait-taking, and added that the series has given her a peek at celebrity: she was, for instance, recognised at the local pool where she swims.
Journalism award for our founding editor
Congratulations to Anna Somers Cocks, the chief executive of The Art Newspaper, who has won the 2013 Istituto Veneto prize for the best piece of journalism about Venice over the past year. It was awarded for her article in the June issue of the New York Review of Books about the inadequate management plan for the city produced by the town council. A comment piece, following up on this subject, will appear in our forthcoming October issue.
The Surrealist next door
Would René Magritte make a good neighbour? The illustrator Grant Snider attempts to answer this question with his online comic “My Neighbor Magritte”. Ahead of the artist’s retrospective “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1928-36”, opening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on 28 September (through 12 January), Snider imagines what it would be like to live next door to the famous Surrealist. Riffing on iconic works by the Belgian painter including The Treachery of Images, 1929, and The Man in the Bowler Hat, 1964, Snider envisions Magritte holding odd yard sales of incorrectly labelled objects and making unconventional use of a nearby green apple tree. Despite his quirks, Snider is sure that the artist would throw “some amazing parties”, as all his float behatted friends start dropping by.
Respect your elders
The two artists with shows in the hippest venues at Moscow’s Fifth Biennale of Contemporary Art also happen to be the oldest. “Utopia and Reality”, Ilya Kabakov’s take (with his wife and collaborator Emilia) on the Russian avant-garde artist and polemicist El Lissitzky, is showing at the Multimedia Art Museum, while Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture is holding the Russian capital’s first-ever show by the California-based Baldessari. Judging by the crowd that packed the Central House of Artists for an onstage discussion between the two octogenarian artists (Baldessari is 82, Kabakov turns 80 on 30 September), the two masters still pack a strong appeal. While Kabakov and Baldessari did not have much to argue over during their public conversation, except the finer points of the significance of the “conceptual artist” label and the role of the artist in society, another prominent Russian artist—also in his 80s—became the evening’s unexpected headliner. Yuri Zlotnikov, who was in the audience, lunged for a mic and launched into an impassioned defense of Soviet art education, after it was criticised as “primitive” by Kabakov, who attended the same Moscow art school as Zlotnikov in the 1940s Stalin era.
Spartacus Chetwynd goes batty in Tuscany and changes her name
Spartacus Chetwynd may be renowned for her exuberant carnivalesque performances but the 2012 Turner Prize nominee also nurtures an abiding obsession for what she calls “the lowly bat”. For over a decade, she has been producing an ongoing series of small “Bat Opera” paintings, the most recent of which were unveiled in the inaugural show of the Gallery at Monteverdi, a new exhibition and artist residency programme curated by Sarah McCrory, the director of the Glasgow International Festival, in the historical Tuscan hilltop hamlet of Castiglioncello del Trinoro. Monteverdi is the brainchild of the American lawyer Michael Cioffi, who wants his hotel and rental villas in Castiglioncello to form not only a holiday idyll but also a culturally enriching environment. Certainly the Monteverdi experience seems to have had a dramatic effect on its first artist-in-residence: as well as producing 50 new paintings during her six-week stay, at the show’s opening the artist, who re-christened herself Spartacus in 2006, announced that she is now changing her name to Marvin Gaye. From rebel slave to murdered Motown musican—maybe she heard it through the grapevine.
What's to come for the Fourth Plinth
Katharina Fritsch’s big blue bird, Hahn/Cock, which has occupied Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth since July, will be a tough act to follow. Maquettes of the six works by artists on the shortlist to replace it went on show today, 25 September, in the St Martin-in-the-Fields church nearby, and will remain on view until 17 November. Hans Haacke proposes another animal, this time skeletal, Gift Horse, while David Shrigley’s work gives Trafalgar Square a giant thumbs-up. Ugo Rondinone suggests a mask-like sentinel and Marcus Coates’s idea is for a rocky outcrop to top the stone plinth. Mark Leckey has riffed on elements traditionally found carved in marble or cast in bronze, including scrolls, coats of arms and a sword in its scabbard for Larger Squat Afar (an anagram of Trafalgar Square). Meanwhile, Liliane Lijn has proposed two cones conducting a pas de deux called The Dance. Two works are due to be selected early next year to be unveiled in 2015 and 2016. For a slideshow of the shortlisted works, click here.
Is there no end to Bob Dylan's artistic talents? A collection of portraits by the legendary US singer is drawing the crowds at London's National Portrait Gallery (until 5 January 2014). But Bob is also a sculptor, crafting seven iron gates welded out of vintage iron and other metal parts. These intriguing pieces, along with a selection of paintings, are due to go on show at the Halcyon Gallery in London ("Mood Swings", 16 November-25 January 2014). “I've been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in iron ore country, where you could breathe it and smell it every day. And I've always worked with it in one form or another," Dylan says, opining further on why gates are first-rate. "Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference.”
Suzanne Lacy takes to Brooklyn's stoops
In 1977, the artist Suzanne Lacy repeatedly stamped a large map of Los Angeles with the word “rape” on the steps of City Hall to raise awareness of sexual violence. On 19 October, Lacy plans to occupy a very different set of front steps for her first New York project. The California-based artist will assemble groups of three to seven people on the stoops (the steps leading up to the buildings front door) of a tree-lined block in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn to discuss a range of issues facing women today, from reproductive rights to global poverty. The public discussion is the culmination of six months’ worth of private conversations between Lacy and a broad group of advisers, including prominent feminists, a theologian, a doctor and an immigration lawyer. An architectural intervention on the front stoop of the Brooklyn Museum, which is co-producing the project with the non-profit Creative Time, will pose similar questions about social justice to the broader Brooklyn community.
Artist editions herself
The performance artist Haley Bueschlen has taken an obsession with the art market to a whole new level. On her birthday last month, she decided to edition herself and legally changed her name to One of Twelve in New York City civil court. She plans to change her name again each month for one year, concluding the performance on her 29th birthday as Twelve of Twelve. (There goes ever being called a "unique" artist.) “I want to put myself directly in the art market to understand how value is determined,” Bueschlen says. “My aim is to increase my market value… to become a museum acquisition and asset.” She also, incidentally, “enjoyed being called ‘Ms Twelve’ at the DMV”. Bueschlen will offer her identification documents and recordings of conversations with government officials for sale—fittingly, in an edition of 12—at the year’s end.
A new (fee-free) art school for London
Curious curators, academics and journalists headed to a former library in Hackney, east London, earlier this week on a quest to find a new type of art school: one where the students won't have to pay tuition fees. Open School East, housed in the appealing 1970s Rose Lipman Library in De Beauvoir town, opened its doors, providing free tuition and workspaces for 13 associate artists. "Through critical and practical teaching, as well as collaborative projects, the programme will support the artistic and professional development of the associates," says the project website. Guest speakers in the first term include Sally Tallant, artistic director of the Liverpool Biennial, and Catherine Wood, the curator of contemporary art and performance, Tate Modern. So what's the catch? "In lieu of paying fees, the associates will give the equivalent of one day every month to devise, run or assist with public activities in and around the building," says the project website. The aim, indeed, is to create "locally focused projects". Open School East is initially funded to run for a year; co-founders including Anna Colin, Laurence Taylor and Sam Thorne of Frieze have lined up an impressive array of backers including Barbican, Create London, and the London Borough of Hackney.
A tribute to the Twin Towers?
The New Museum unveiled some architectural extensions to its roof today in advance of its forthcoming Chris Burden retrospective. The artist’s Twin Quasi Legal Skyscrapers, 2013, went up overnight, topping the museum with a pair of eerily familiar towers. Last year, Burden told us the story of how he was inspired to create the works more than a decade ago after finding a loophole in the Los Angeles building code. “When we were building our house, I asked an architect what was the smallest building you could build without a permit. At the time it was 400 sq. ft, and the building height restriction was 35 feet.” To read the full article, click here.
The art of writing
Can artists write as well as paint and sculpt, wielding the pen as skilfully as the brush? Artists have always played with text; look no further than the Futurists and Filippo Marinetti, the leader of the early 20th-century Italian movement who sent words whizzing across the page, creating a swirl of symbols in the 1914 publication "Zang Tumb Tumb". Thirty two artists have now turned to text as part of an intriguing new online project called Flash 500, launched by the London-based publishers Akerman Daly. Subscribe online and five stories a week comprising exactly 500 words each will ping in to your email box (high-profile names such as Fiona Banner, Richard Billlingham and George Shaw have signed up to send the free missives). "Language and text-as-image is a rich area that artists are increasingly using in their work; what do artists need with words and what do they write about?", says the Akerman Daly website. We shall find out when the six-week project launches on 18 September. Go to: http://akermandaly.com/flash500/about/
Wave a magic wand....
There's still time to donate to the Kickstarter campaign for the latest project launched by House of Fairy Tales, the UK-based educational arts charity and travelling art circus founded by the high-profile artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk. This autumn, House of Fairy Tales is launching its first art school for children in Canning Town, east London. Around £50,000 is required for running costs during the school's first term (on 15 September, the campaign tally had reached £53,204 but there's still just under two days to go if you want to contribute). Children will have access to a film studio, a photographic studio, printmaking facilities, and prop-making spaces. Fans of Sir Peter Blake should pitch in as pledges of £1,200 or more could bag an exclusive print, Rock 'n' Roll Map, by the veteran UK artist. Go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/houseoffairytales/the-house-of-fairy-tales-canning-town-art-circus
London gears up for Australian bonanza
There's a mania for all things Australian this autumn in London's art world, with fans of Oz looking forward to the Royal Academy's Antipodean blockbuster exhibition "Australia", which opens next week (21 September-8 December). But Aussie addicts will no doubt also savour an exhibition of works by the high-profile, 85-year-old artist John Olsen at Osborne Samuel gallery in London (3-26 October). A press statement describes Olsen as "the elder statesman of Australian contemporary art". Cue the elder statesman of Australian comedy, Barry Humphries, who is due to open the Olsen show. Humphries's alter ego is none other than the gladioli-loving, bespectacled comedy character Dame Edna Everage. (The housewife/megastar/icon's farewell tour begins next month.) Barry's son Oscar, meanwhile, is an art world stalwart, having edited Apollo magazine since 2010. In the latest issue of the 87-year-old journal, Humphries Jr. announced that he is stepping down. The baton now passes to Thomas Marks, who was the deputy editor. Humphries has some sound advice for his successor: "I would encourage Thomas to commission what he takes a deep interest in—indeed what he loves—as he sets about editing Apollo. An art magazine needs a voice; it must provide aesthetic and cultural opinion." The outgoing editor is not going very far though, remaining at the mag as the publisher and editorial director.
Russian artists’ icon banned from the web
A court has ruled that an “icon” created by Artyom Loskutov and Maria Kiseleva, artists based in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third most populous city, offends religious feelings and must be scrubbed from the web (good luck with that). The icon depicts the Virgin Mary, wearing a balaclava like those worn by members of Pussy Riot and holding a little girl with braids instead of the baby Jesus. The regional prosecutor’s office said in a statement on its website that it was responding to complaints by “clergy and Orthodox believers” who saw the image online. Government cultural specialists and a theologian determined that the image was based on “one of the most revered Russian icons”, the Sign of the Most Holy Theotokos, and that “the distortion of the icon is a mockery of a holy relic and of the entire Orthodox faith,” said the statement. Russia’s parliament passed a law in June making it a crime to offend “religious feelings”. Loskutov was already found guilty by a Novosibirsk court in May of producing t-shirts with the image. The prosecutor’s office said that the new ruling makes it possible to ban all internet access to the image in Russia. Loskutov told Siberian media that he was both surprised and honored by all the attention that law enforcement officials have paid to his work.
McQueen’s slavery biopic touted as an Oscar winner
Steve McQueen’s latest film, “12 Years a Slave”, which tells the harrowing true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted in New York and sold into slavery in 1841, received a standing ovation on Friday from audiences at the Toronto Film Festival. Though some viewers walked out of the screening, presumably due to certain scenes of explicit violence, critics have been raving. “Hear that?” begins a review in USA Today; “It’s the sound of ‘12 Years a Slave’ gaining momentum.” The Independent reports that the film is “being touted as the frontrunner for next year’s Oscars with a Best Picture nomination seemingly guaranteed.” But is the film meant to set off a conversation about race? McQueen’s response to reporters was equivocal: “I don't know what kind of conversation you are talking about,” he told reporters. “It's a very broad question, and I don't know what you mean,” he said, adding that “for me, this film is about how to survive an unfortunate situation.”
Munch sets for Ibsen’s 'Ghosts' back on stage
To mark the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birth, the artist’s set designs for Henrik Ibsen’s play “Ghosts” are due to go on show for the second time ever this month at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, Surrey. Although he had never worked in theatres before, in 1906 Munch was persuaded to create the set for a Berlin production of “Ghosts” in honour of Ibsen, who had died earlier that year. Ibsen had supported Munch in 1895 when a controversial exhibition in Oslo led to a public discussion about whether Munch was insane. The artist didn’t create a traditional set design, instead producing 16 large-scale paintings that depicted themes from the play. “Just as in his paintings, there’s a great use of shadow in Munch’s set,” says Sue Prideaux, the artist’s biographer who decided to re-stage the designs in the UK. No photos exist of the 1906 production, so the designer Simon Higlett had to recreate the set by piecing together the 16 paintings, which are housed in the Munch Museum in Oslo, using drawings and written documents. Stephen Unwin is directing the play, which is sponsored by the Norwegian financial services group, DNB. “Ghosts” opens 19 September and is due to tour the UK until December.
Robert Mapplethorpe, as seen by Isabelle Huppert
Who knew that the French movie star Isabelle Huppert was also well versed in the art of Robert Mapplethorpe? The headline-hitting actress, known for her roles in “The Piano Teacher”, 2001, and “Merci Pour le Chocolat”, 2000, has organised an exhibition of the late US photographer’s works at the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery in Salzburg (until 26 October). Huppert, says the gallery website, was given free rein at the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York, and plumped for works such as Lisa Lyon, 1982, and Tulips, 1988. “Mapplethorpe blurred the frontiers, merged the mobile and the immobile. His flowers are alive, almost human, and his bodies are frozen in their eternal beauty. Each photo is pure emotion,” Huppert opines. The show is part of the gallery’s 30th anniversary celebrations; indeed, Mapplethorpe was one of the first American artists to show with the veteran Austrian dealer in the 1980s.
Doug Aitken's Station to Station sets off from New York
Doug Aitken’s ambitious, rollicking “nomadic happening” Station to Station launches on its cross-country trip tonight from Brooklyn. The project takes the form of a train that will make stops in nine cities across the US, starting at the Riverfront Studios in New York and ending at the 16th Street Station in Oakland, California. Along the way, artists and performers will join Aitken’s travelling troupe for one-night-only events that will include installations, interventions, music and food. In New York, there will be performances by the bands No Age, Suicide, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and a recreation of Robert Rauschenberg's first dance work, Pelican, 1963, by the choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer. Rirkrit Tiravanija is expected to feed the crowds with his signature social cookery, while Olaf Breuning is creating a Technicolor smoke installation. The events at the first two stops in New York and Pittsburgh have already sold out, but there are tickets available for other cities, including Chicago, where Theaster Gates and his Black Monks of Mississippi will perform, along with Sonic Youth’s frontman Thurston Moore and others, while artists including Urs Fischer, Ernesto Neto, Carsten Höller and Liz Glynn create works. The project is sponsored by Levi’s jeans and Aitken is also raising funds along the way, through ticket sales and donations. For more info: http://stationtostation.com
John Divola, the Napoleon of Riverside county?
The first instalment of “John Divola: As Far As I Could Get”, a retrospective in three parts devoted to the Los Angeles-born, Riverside-based artist, opened this week at the Pomona College Museum of Art (until 22 December). The artist recently told Jonathan Griffin, a contributor to The Art Newspaper, that he was feeling somewhat Napoleonic of late (Aperture magazine, issue 211). It wasn’t the logistics of a career-spanning show that stretches from Pomona to Santa Barbara via Wilshire Boulevard that meant he identified with the French emperor who came a cropper in Russia. Rather he sympathised with Ol’ Boney because managing a burgeoning archive, which fills a Riverside warehouse floor to ceiling, means “it’s hard to move forward when you’re looking after the stuff in the rear”. Pomona’s part of the show features photographs from the series “Zuma”, 1977-78, created during Divola’s two-year-long study of a Malibu beach house going to rack and ruin (with a helping hand via a spray can from the artist). Next month the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Santa Barbara Museum of Art open their instalments of the Divola trilogy.
Diego Rivera’s mural legacy lives on in Detroit
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (MOCAD) is giving the Detroit Industry murals a 21st-century update. The museum commissioned 15 internationally recognised artists, including Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Andrea Bowers and Martha Rosler, to conceive new murals in honour of the 80th anniversary of Diego Rivera’s iconic frescoes. Each work in “The Past Is Present” (6 September-5 January 2014) depicts a moment in Detroit’s history after 1933, the year Rivera completed his own images of assembly lines at the Ford Motor Company. Many of the new murals address labour issues: William E. Jones, for example, revisits a violent clash between Ford security guards and labour organisers in 1937. To replicate Rivera’s process, MOCAD commissioned local painters to execute the international artists’ designs. “Every artist I asked to participate said yes,” says the show’s curator Jens Hoffmann, the deputy director of the Jewish Museum in New York. He began working on the project well before Detroit filed for municipal bankruptcy in June, which brought increased global attention to the region. “Artists have been fascinated by Detroit and its history of industrialisation for a long time,” Hoffmann says.
'Peter Doige' saga deepens
A $12m lawsuit against the Edinburgh-born artist Peter Doig over a painting bearing the signature “Peter Doige” is simply a case of mistaken identity, the artist’s lawyers stated in court papers filed last week. In April, the retired parole officer Robert Fletcher sued Doig in federal court for denying the authenticity of a landscape painting the officer alleges the now-famous artist sold him in 1976. Fletcher says he bought the painting from an artist who was serving a five-month sentence at the Thunder Bay Correctional Center in Ontario for LSD possession. Since the suit was filed, Doig's lawyers have staunchly denied that their client ever served time in a detention facility for a drug offence. The artist's lawyers claim that they “found the person who actually painted the work at issue”: a deceased former Thunder Bay inmate named Peter Doige. In a sworn affidavit, Doige’s sister Marilyn Doige Bovard says that she believes her brother, who took art classes in prison, painted the work. “The desert scene appears to be from around the area in Arizona to which our mother moved after she divorced our father,” Bovard says. Fletcher’s lawyer William Zieske told The Art Newspaper that he plans to “look into the documentation we’ve been given. We could still have a lot of surprises in this case.”
The lights go on and off at Tate (courtesy of Creed)
The Tate in London has acquired Martin Creed's headline-hitting conceptual piece Work 227: The lights going on and off, 2000 which put traditionalists in a spin when it was shown at Tate Britain in 2001. Creed's cheeky installation, comprising an empty gallery with a pair of lights flashing on and off every five seconds, won him the Turner Prize. At the time, the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported: "Even by the standards of a prize that has been contested by Chris Ofili's elephant dung paintings, Tracey Emin's soiled bed and dirty knickers and Damien Hirst's sliced and pickled animals, Creed's work is widely considered exceptionally odd and is likely to quicken debate about the prize's future." The provocative piece will go on display from 21 October until 13 April 2014 as part of the BP Spotlights programme at Tate Britain. "After the display at Tate Britain, the work will be made available to the [UK-based] 'Artist Rooms' touring programme alongside the existing Artist Room by Martin Creed," says a Tate spokeswoman who was coy about the price paid for the enlightening work. "The purchase amount has not yet been published," she adds. The piece was purchased with funds provided by Tate Members, the Art Fund charity and a private donor.
A public peek at Scotland Yard’s secret Crime Museum?
Gruesome displays from Scotland Yard’s museum of criminal memorabilia—such as letters by Jack the Ripper, hangman’s nooses, death masks, forged banknotes and the ricin pellet fired from an umbrella that killed the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov—could be put on public display for the first time when the Metropolitan Police moves its headquarters to a new building on the Victoria Embankment. The collection was established in 1875 but has always been closed to the public and was dubbed the Black Museum after a newspaper reporter was refused admission; the name was changed a few decades ago to the Crime Museum. When the police force moves, probably sometime in 2015, “careful consideration will be given to the future of the Crime Museum”, a spokesman says. Rather than simply moving the closed-access museum, located in room 101 of New Scotland Yard, Roger Evans, the Conservative deputy chairman of the Greater London Authority has suggested that the more interesting objects should be presented to the public in an exhibition. Evans says that the display might attract as many as 300,000 visitors in three months—comparable to the National Gallery’s Leonardo show last year. With a £15 ticket price, and assuming that Scotland Yard retains one fifth of this sum as profit, he calculates that this would pay for the equivalent of 55,000 hours of additional front-line policing.
From Royal Chelsea to Warhol: Phyllis Diller’s diverse art haul
The American comedienne Phyllis Diller, who died last year, was an outrageous woman. She once called her mother-in-law “jello with a belt.” (“When the old bat sits down, it takes the whole thing five minutes to settle.”) At the age of 81 she auditioned to become a Spice Girl “because I hear spice is a preservative”. Known for her outlandish costumes, she once told an audience that she worked as a lampshade in Las Vegas. At home, though, Phyllis was relatively conservative, at least judging by the items up for auction at her estate sale, which takes place on 22 September at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills. Two small 19th-century Italian panel paintings (est $800-$1,200), a Persian hand knotted wool rug (est $60,000-$80,000) and a set of Royal Chelsea teacups and saucers (est $400-$600) are all on the block. But Phyllis was popular with her contemporaries, so should we be surprised to find a Warhol piece in her collection? A 1983 print, Cow, is inscribed by the artist himself: “H.B P.D (happy birthday Phyllis Diller) Love Andy Warhol 83” (estimate $4,000-$6,000), a gift from one popular culture pioneer to another.