Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PINA BAUSCH, German choreographer and dancer, dies

The German choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch died this morning at the age of 68, five days after being diagnosed with cancer. Bausch was the artistic director of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, which she founded in 1973. She had a formidable international reputation as one of modern dance's greatest innovators. Alistair Spalding, artistic director of Sadler's Wells, said today: "She was an artist of the kind that the world is only blessed with from time to time. Her repertoire of works has inspired generations of audiences and artists with an impact that is hard to overestimate."

"No theatre was as brutally or as elegantly in the present tense as Bausch's, no women are more powerful than hers, no men more tender, no steps, slaps, looks or touches were ever as real." Neil Bartlett

Video of a portion of Pina Bausch in Cafe Muller with music by Matthew Scott.


The plot thickens in the $310 million sale of Merkin's Rothkos (including $11 million fee paid to PaceWildenstein).

The financier Ezra Merkin, sued by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over his role as a provider of client funds to convicted money manager Bernard Madoff, is selling Mark Rothko paintings and other artwork for $310 million that had been frozen in the litigation. Merkin and his wife, Lauren, entered into a sales contract, subject to Cuomo’s approval, and agreed to put the net proceeds in escrow, pending the outcome of the lawsuit, according to a court filing. “As Mr. Merkin continues to defend against the actions brought against him by the New York attorney general and others, he and his wife have decided to sell the core of their art collection in a private sale,” Andrew Levander, counsel to Merkin, said in an e-mailed statement. “The Merkins believe the lawsuits are without merit and have agreed, without prejudice to their rights, to place the net proceeds of the sale in escrow while the litigation continues.” The proposed deadline for the private sale is July 15. The sale will yield about $191 million, after liens, taxes and fees, which will go into escrow, according to Cuomo. The buyer hasn’t been identified. “This will preserve assets that, if our litigation is successful, will provide restitution to victims of Mr. Merkin’s alleged fraud,” Cuomo said in a statement. Cuomo said he will continue to seek “full recovery for investors’ losses” through the suit, which charges Merkin with concealing the investment of more than $2.4 billion with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. State Supreme Court Justice Richard Lowe, who is in charge of the case, indicated he would sign the order allowing the art sale. According to court papers, there is a lien on artworks held by PaceWildenstein LLC, as agent for Rothko’s children, Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, for $42 million, and a lien held by HSBC Bank USA NA for $19.3 million on certain property, including 14 lesser works of art. In addition, PaceWildenstein will receive a fee of $11 million for advising the buyer, and TLIA LLC will get $26.5 million for advising the seller, according to court papers. “In a $310 million transaction, advisory fees of 5 to 10 percent would not generally seem to be out of the ordinary,” said an art lawyer. “However given the actual dollars involved -- $37.5 million in fees -- and the fact that proceeds are to be used for restitution for Madoff victims, many would view the fees as excessive.” Of the $211 million left, $19.2 million will be taken out for taxes expected to be due on the sale of the art, as well as other expenses, including legal fees directly related to the sale. Christie’s International Plc, which conducted an appraisal, said the purchase price was fair, according to court papers. Amid one of the roughest seasons for the art market, news of the $310 million sale is bolstering confidence among dealers. “In this environment, the fact that a transaction can take place at this level obviously shows that there is still confidence in the art market,” said private New York dealer. Earlier this month, Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Madoff’s firm, asked a judge for an order forcing Merkin to transfer to the bankruptcy court any remaining money held by his Ascot Partners fund. The trustee said the order was needed to block Ascot assets from being moved by any receiver who may be appointed by Cuomo. “We’re aware of what happened,” with Merkin’s art sale, Picard said in a phone interview. Picard said in an e-mailed statement that the release of funds from the escrow account “will require a court application and order.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Jeff Koons
Popeye 2003
Oil on canvas
274.3 x 213.4 cm
Collection of the Artist
© 2008 Jeff Koons


The Serpentine Gallery presents an exhibition of the work of the celebrated American artist Jeff Koons, his first major exhibition in a public gallery in England. For his exhibition at the Gallery, Koons presents paintings and sculptures from his Popeye series, which he began in 2002. Working in thematic series since the early 1980s, Koons has explored notions of consumerism, taste, banality, childhood and sexuality. He is known for his meticulously fabricated works that draw on a variety of objects and images from American and consumer culture. The works in this show incorporate some of Koons’s signature ideas and motifs, including surreal combinations of everyday objects, cartoon imagery, art-historical references and children’s toys. The sculptures continue Koons’s interest in casting inflatable toys. Those typically used by children in a swimming pool are cast in aluminium, their surfaces painted to bear an uncanny resemblance to the original objects. He juxtaposes these replica readymades with unaltered everyday objects, such as chairs or rubbish bins. The paintings are complex and layered compositions that combine disparate images both found and created by Koons, including images of the sculptures in the series. Featuring loans from both public and private collections, the exhibition also includes works that have never been shown publicly before. The immediately recognizable figures of Popeye and Olive Oyl are central in the series and appear in several prominent works within the exhibition. One of the most iconic American comic strip characters, Popeye was conceived 80 years ago this year in 1929 when the Great Depression was taking hold. In Popeye’s early years, the cartoon addressed the hardships and injustices of the time and, in this current period of economic recession, he is a fitting character to rediscover and explore. Koons has used inflatables in his work since the late 1970s; one of his most iconic sculptures, Rabbit, 1986, is an inflatable bunny rendered in reflective stainless steel. He has also made sculptures on a spectacular scale inspired by inflatables, including works from his monumental Celebration series. Jeff Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania, in 1955 and currently lives and works in New York.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


For the first time in around a year, there was a palpable energy at a contemporary art fair as collectors unleashed pent-up buying power. Deals closed fast and furiously, both on the ground floor, amid million dollars price tags, and upstairs where the newer art commanded around $20,000 to several hundred thousand. Economists would have been mystified at the spending patterns of the art collecting elite. It was as if the worldwide recession was a thing of the past, or at least momentarily forgotten. Dealers, collectors, advisors and curators agreed that exhibitors had brought out their most tantalizing material, plucking the best of their inventory and prying top, fresh goods from artists resulting in a fair flush with prime works. The fair got off to a strong start as collectors poured into the boxy industrial convention hall promptly at 11 am. A chic, mostly European crowd, wearing the latest in tans courtesy of the Venice Biennale, dashed for the stands. “In the first half hour of the fair, I’ve seen the best stuff I’ve seen all year,” said one private dealer. “Every booth so far had something great.” Collectors were intent on buying, not merely browsing. Europeans overwhelmingly outnumbered the Americans. Buyers noticed the action. “There was high quality material on the primary market and active trading going on", said one collector. “Connoisseurs are taking advantage of the current cycle in the market.” It seems that financial conditions weren’t a deterrent on opening day and that we are far enough into this new economic cycle that people are comfortable spending again. “I’m not saying the bull market is back,” said one dealer. “But I’m saying the art market needed a good fair and this is it.”

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Vices and Virtues
photo by Michele Lamanna, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art
Installation shot of an exhibition copy of Bruce Nauman, Vices and Virtues, 1983-88 as installed on the frieze of the U.S. Pavilion. Neon and clear glass tubing mounted on aluminum support grid.


Venice, Italy, June 6, 2009—The Philadelphia Museum of Art, commissioning institution for the United States Pavilion at the 53rd International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, announced today that the U.S. representation, Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, has been awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for the Best National Participation. According to a statement from the Biennale, the presentation was selected “in recognition of the sustained energy and precision of Bruce Nauman’s art. From iconic embodiments of human pain and fragility to pithy jabs at our frailties, his oeuvre reveals the magic of meaning as it emerges through relentless repetition of language and form.” This is the first time since 1990 that the United States has received the much-coveted award. Organized by the Museum in collaboration with the Università Iuav di Venezia and the Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, Topological Gardens is currently on view in Venice at the U.S. Pavilion and the two universities. Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art, and Michael R. Taylor, Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, developed the exhibition with the artist and serve as the U.S. Commissioners.
Paolo Baratta, President of the Biennale, announced the award on June 6, 2009 at 17:00 in the Giardini della Biennale. The ceremony took place just steps away from the neoclassical U.S. Pavilion, where Nauman’s major neon work Vices and Virtues dramatically illuminates the entire exterior. The selection was made by an international jury proposed by Daniel Birnbaum and approved by the Board of the Biennale. Chaired by Angela Vettese (Italy), the jury included Jack Bankowsky (USA), Homi K. Bhabha (India), Sarat Maharaj (South-Africa), and Julia Voss (Germany). Commissioner Basualdo, who accepted the Golden Lion on behalf of the U.S. representation, thanked Bruce Nauman; Michael Taylor, his Co-Commissioner; Erica Battle, the Project Curatorial Assistant, all of whom joined him on stage, as well as the entire Museum staff and its Board of Trustees. He stated, "most of all, it has been an amazing honor to work closely with one of the great artists of our time, Bruce Nauman."

Friday, June 05, 2009


John Baldessari

53rd Venice Biennale 2009
June 7 through November 22, 2009

John Baldessari will be awarded this year's Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale for his lifetime achievement. The award will be presented to John Baldessari on the 6th of June by Dr. Daniel Birnbaum, director of the Städelschule in Frankfurt and head of the 53rd International Art Exhibition in Venice. Works by the artist will be included in this year's Biennale exhibition ‘Making Worlds' curated by Dr. Birnbaum. The 78-year-old conceptual artist, championing wit and intellect, altered the language of contemporary art by breaking boundaries of media-specificity when he seamlessly combined text, photography, and painting.

Monday, June 01, 2009


© 2007 Bruce Nauman/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Michael Tropea, © MCA, Chicago, courtesy Berkeley Art Museum

June 7, 2009 - November 22, 2009
53rd International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia

A multifaceted, multi-site exhibition examining and highlighting the central themes of a leading American artist’s extraordinary forty-year career, Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens will represent the United States in the 53rd International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia—popularly known as the Venice Biennale. Composed of three interrelated components on view at three separate locations throughout Venice, Italy, Topological Gardens will present Nauman’s work in the U.S. Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale (a park with twenty-nine international pavilions that serves as official center of the Biennale) and on the premises of two of the city’s most highly esteemed academic institutions—the Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini and the Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca’ Foscari.
Bruce Nauman is widely regarded as one of the most innovative American artists of our time, an artist who pioneered and remains at the forefront of exploring language and the body through revelatory and rigorously conceived and realized individual artworks, installations, and performance. Nauman investigates and purposefully challenges the traditional dichotomies between the body and mind, sight and sound, memory and contemporaneity, offering insights into the paradoxical nature of the human condition. By including a range of Nauman’s work in neon, video, installation, performance, and sculpture—from iconic selections to rarely or never-before-seen works, including the debut of a groundbreaking sound installation—Topological Gardens will encourage visitors to chart connections among various locations in Venice and to shape and direct their own experience of Nauman’s provocative art. This exhibition is structured around the idea of topology—the mathematical investigation of how geometric figures remain fixed amid changing spatial conditions—and resonates with the artist’s own exploration of the boundaries between private and public.
Bruce Nauman was born in 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During his undergraduate schooling at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Nauman initially studied mathematics and physics before changing his focus to studio art where he began to investigate art making beyond his earlier abstract paintings. There he experimented with casting objects in fiberglass and polyester resin, leaving their surfaces unrefined to reflect the casting process. While at Davis, Nauman also staged his first two performances, utilizing a fluorescent tube as an extension of his body as he performed mundane actions, which he would later record on video. After graduate school, Nauman occupied a storefront studio in San Francisco where he focused on the act and process of making art by photographing visual puns and daily actions. An old neon beer sign in this former grocery store served as inspiration for Nauman’s celebrated neon, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign) (1967). At once genuine and ironic, this statement initiated a tongue-in-cheek discourse concerning the role of the artist in society that persists through much of Nauman’s work. Nauman later moved to Wiley’s studio in Mill Valley, California where he made various films of himself walking around the space while altering his bodily movement. He began to garner critical attention in 1966 with his first solo show at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery in Los Angeles, as well as his inclusion in Lucy R. Lippard’s Eccentric Abstraction group exhibition in New York. Nauman’s solo debut in New York at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1968 was soon followed by a one-man exhibition at the Konrad Fischer Gallerie in Düsseldorf, Germany. In 1972–73, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art co-organized the first major survey of his work, Bruce Nauman: Works from 1965–1972, an exhibition that traveled to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and other venues within the United States.
Influenced early on by philosophy and literature, Nauman’s work constantly tests rational systems of language, spatial and bodily boundaries, duration, and psychology through sculpture, video installations, and constructed environments. In the late 1960s, Nauman continued to work with neon and also began to construct corridors, sometimes filming his performances within them. Larger constructed environments in the early 1970s often included video surveillance cameras and monitors that overlooked and recorded viewers as they entered them. Nauman continued to make large sculptures and installations in the 1970s and early 1980s, mapping space with masking tape or evoking physical or psychological constraints through the creation of passages and tunnels. After a ten-year hiatus, Nauman returned to his work with video in the mid-1980s with many multi-channel video installations that further explored language and his metaphorical use of labyrinths and the personae of rats and clowns. In the late 1980s he also introduced the iconography of life-sized animals cast in wax that hang suspended in carousel-like formations. The 1990s brought sculptures of human heads and hands in wax and bronze, video installations, and sustained work with neon. In the early twenty-first century, Nauman’s video work, sound installations, and sculptures continue themes that have resurfaced throughout his oeuvre since the 1960s.
Museum exhibitions have continued to map Nauman’s practice, and notable solo shows include Bruce Nauman, 1972–1981 held at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo in the Netherlands and at the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden in West Germany in 1981; a survey organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis that traveled in 1993–95 to Madrid, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York; and, in 2006–07, an exhibition of his early work, A Rose Has No Teeth, that traveled to the University of California Berkeley Art Museum, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Turin, Italy, and the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. Among the prestigious group shows that have included Nauman are the Venice Biennale in 1978, 1980, 1999, and 2007, as well as several documenta exhibitions (1972, 1977, 1982, and 1992) ) in Kassel, Germany. Garnering multiple awards throughout his career for his exceptionally wide-ranging and conceptually challenging practice, Nauman has received the Wexner Prize in 1994, the Leone d’oro (The Golden Lion) along with Louise Bourgeois at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, and the Praemium Imperiale for Visual Arts in 2004 in Japan. He holds honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute and the California Institute of the Arts. In 1979, Nauman moved to New Mexico where he continues to work and live along with his wife, the painter Susan Rothenberg.
Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens extends beyond the U.S. Pavilion, which traditionally hosts the Biennale’s U.S. representation, to two additional University exhibition spaces. Resonating with Nauman’s investigations into the nature and the boundaries of public and private spaces, this expansion ensures that a more diverse audience will experience first-hand the work of one of the most accomplished living American artists. The three locations of this exhibition highlight the notion of topology as key to understanding both Nauman’s work and the urban structure of Venice, enabling visitors to experience one in relation to the other while productively interrogating the idea of the “national pavilion.”

U.S. Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale
The traditional venue for United States presentations at the Venice Biennale, the U. S. Pavilion is a neoclassical building located in the Giardini della Biennale (Gardens of the Biennial), at the tip Castello district of Venice. The freestanding Jeffersonian pavilion, designed by architects William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich in 1930, is one of twenty-nine permanent national structures located in the Giardini. Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens will be on view at the U.S. Pavilion in the Venice Biennial’s Giardini for the duration of the 53rd International Art Exhibition, from June 7 to November 22, 2009.

Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini
The Università Iuav di Venezia program dates to 1923, when it was initiated as a special architecture course within the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice. In 1926 it broke from the Accademia, becoming Italy’s second architecture school. Founded with the goal of exploring all aspects of design, the Università Iuav di Venezia has since attracted some of the world’s greatest practitioners of architecture and urban planning. Faculties of arts and design, architecture, and urban and regional planning tackle critical issues in surface and building systems, housing development, city landscape and its transformation, as well as environmental processes. In addition to ongoing collaboration with Venetian institutions, the Università Iuav di Venezia actively maintains collaborative partnerships with forty-five other international universities. Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens will be on view at the Università Iuav di Venezia from June 7 through October 18, 2009.

Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca’ Foscari
Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia is renowned for its exquisite Venetian Gothic architecture and its beautiful views of the Grand Canal, spanning the Rialto Bridge to the Accademia galleries. Commissioned by Doge Francesco Foscari and designed by Carlo Scarpa in 1452, the palazzo was converted into the prestigious Università Ca’ Foscari in 1868. Today Ca’ Foscari has nineteen academic departments, seventeen research centers, and numerous partnerships with Venetian cultural and scientific institutions. Topological Gardens will be located on the first and second floors (piano terra and primo piano) of the Ca’ Foscari complex, where it will be on view from June 7 through October 18, 2009.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art was chosen as the commissioner for the 2009 United States Pavilion. Carlos Basualdo, its curator of contemporary art, and Michael R. Taylor, its curator of modern art, organized the Nauman exhibition.

photo: BRUCE NAUMAN © 2007 Sidney B. Felsen

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