Sunday, July 30, 2006

Chelsea Is a Battlefield: Galleries Muster Groups NY Times

IN case you haven’t noticed, the summer group show wars are raging in Chelsea. Over the last few years they have become something of an annual rite. Starting in late June and continuing through August, the solo shows drop off and the group shows — four or more artists — proliferate. The densely packed yet oddly discrete parallel universes in which galleries exist for most of the year lose some of their definition.

After all, proximity breeds a lot of things, including competitiveness, as well as pressures that need venting, and that seems to be what summer in Chelsea is for. It is open season for cool hunting and power gathering. Hipness prevails over blue-chipness.

Galleries let off steam, kick up their heels, make plays for new artists or higher profiles, or try to improve their standing. Their inner lives are more fully visible, not the least because group shows involve more decisions than the solo kind. There are more artists and more art and, frequently, outside loans and curators, all multiplied by the 100-plus group shows Chelsea has fostered this summer. Even a small sampling of these shows, as here, gives some indication of the tremendous amount of data about current art and the scene that is being released into the atmosphere.

A Few Signposts

The exhibition titles alone can trigger a kind of semiotic delirium, and in many cases are a show’s main cleverness. Some are deliberately provocative: “Better Than Sex, Better Than Disneyland” at Ramis Barquet, “Binge and Purge” at Magnan Projects “Photography Is Not an Art!” at Alan Klotz and “Montezuma’s Revenge” at Nicole Klagsbrun. Some form odd chains of words and ideas: “Men” at I-20, “Men and Materials” at Jeff Bailey, “Materiality” at Kravets Wehby, “Material Abuse” at Caren Golden.

Others may fill gaps in your liberal arts education: Wallace Stevens’s Whitmanesque ode to summer has provided the title for “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts,” a group show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Organized by the photographers Justine Kurland and Dan Torop, it elegantly and peripatetically spans 140 years of photography: the rabbit pulled out of the 19th century’s hat. And there is always a high-water mark of pretentiousness. This year’s is the title of the Bortolami Dayan show, “War on 45/My Mirrors Are Painted Black (For You).”

Other Attributes

Titles aside, the first key to the import of a summer group show is its organizer. Is it an invited guest (curator, critic, artist, dealer) with a reputation of a certain weight and possibly a foreign passport? Or is it the gallery’s owner or junior staff?

Equally important are the artists selected: Are they young and hot — like a fishing expedition or football draft — or are the generations mixed so as to reflect flatteringly in all directions? And how many artists in the show are already represented by the host gallery? Too many and it can seem overly promotional. It’s usually a judgment call. A borderline example: In Cheim & Read’s marvelous show about Chaim Soutine and modern art, 5 of the 20 artists whose work share the walls with the Soutines are represented by the gallery.

When the guest curator is an important artist, a courtship may be under way, or complete. For example the exhibition organized by Charles Ray at Matthew Marks is the first public sign that Mr. Ray, the prominent American sculptor, has joined this prestigious gallery. That the show includes loans from the Museum of Modern Art (a tall Giacometti figure) and the Whitney (an important early Mark di Suvero) reflects Mr. Marks’s clout, the museums’ interest in Mr. Ray, or both. But let’s move on to other cups of tea leaves.

An Aesthetic Divide

Chelsea’s group-show summer fray can evoke a farmyard with a surplus of roosters. This was especially the case last summer when male artists and curators seemed to dominate, along with a plethora of Conceptually-based black-on-black appropriation art. At the time the term “boys in black” came to mind, and to a certain extent they’re back.

This summer’s crop of shows confirms that an opposition present in art since the mid 1970’s is still in force, if a bit out of whack. In the 1980’s appropriation art and Neo-Expressionist painting were fairly evenly matched, which made for a really invigorating argument. These days Conceptually-based appropriation art — involving photographs, found objects, text, elusive meaning and usually not much in the way of form — has taken over some of Chelsea’s sleeker galleries. While art that is more robust, colorful, physical and sometimes painterly tends to be found in less prominent shows, like “Diamonds Cut Diamonds” at Rare, where the work of five young sculptors exudes a material flamboyance that is curtailed by a banal sense of realism. Read the full article.

Friday, July 28, 2006


One of the many causalities of the current conflict in Lebanon may be Beirut’s budding art scene, if the experience of Beruit’s branch of the Hamburg Galerie Sfeir-Semler is any indication.
The Lebanon-born German art dealer Andrée Sfeir, who opened her first gallery in Germany more than 20 years ago, launched a branch in an abandoned iron factory in Beirut’s Quarantine district in April 2005. The initiative coincided with Lebanon’s "Cedar Revolution," and the awakening of Lebanese civil society following the departure of Syrian troops -- the gallery opened on the same weekend (Apr. 9-10, 2006) that the last of the Syrian forces officially departed Lebanon.
Sfeir told Artnet News that the Beirut gallery was not, at first, a commercial endeavour. Flowing from the optimism of the Cedar Revolution, Galerie Sfeir-Semler in Beirut was designed to promote local artists and help build the Lebanese art market -- Beirut has been, of course, an important business and cultural center in the Middle East -- as well as to bring prominent international artists to Lebanon to stimulate dialogue.
"I didn’t know if it would function," Sfeir said. "I believed in Lebanon, and I wanted to do something in the country. We had finally recovered from the last war. Life was beautiful and it truly felt like we were living in a young democracy, and that things were happening. There was an opening."
The gallery met with considerable success, on esthetic, social and commercial levels. According to Sfeir, the positive results had everything to do with the return of exiled Lebanese who had been living abroad and other cosmopolitan Arabs who were hungry for culture.
"We were even selling video installations," the dealer said. "Can you imagine?" The Lebanese Bank Audi purchased a video work by Lebanon-born artist Akram Zaatari (who trained at the New School in New York), which is to be installed in their lobby.
On July 6, 2006 -- six days before the Israeli air force began the bombing of Beirut -- the gallery debuted "Moving Home(s)," its most ambitious show to date, originally scheduled July 6-Nov. 22, 2006. Upwards of 700 people attended the opening.
The show features work by Atelier van Lieshout, Balthasar Burkhard, Diller + Scofidio, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Jimmi Durham, Dan Graham, Bernard Khoury, Stephan Mörsch, Peter Piller and Rayyane Tabet. It was intended to bring together works that touched on themes of globalization and tourism -- but now its title has taken on a new meaning, given the mass exodus from Lebanon, with over 600,000 people already fleeing their homes, according to the United Nations.
Sfeir herself left Beirut earlier this month after waking up to bombing and seeing the city covered in soot from the air strikes. She hired a taxi to escape along the mountain road to Damascus. "There were hundreds of people with suitcases waiting to get across the border," she says. "Fortunately, my taxi driver knew somebody, and I was able to cross." Her husband, who keeps plane tickets on reserve for business purposes, was able to secure space on a flight to Germany.
Sfeir-Semler’s gallery director, Natalie Khouri, who has family in Beirut, has remained in Lebanon and has been keeping an eye on the gallery. Sfeir hopes that the space will remain safe, given its location in a sturdy building in a neighborhood devoted mainly to warehouses.
At present, the art in "Moving Home(s)" remains as installed. "How would we get it out?" Sfeir mused. "The airports, the ports, all these things have been bombed." She has been in contact with the artists in the show, and said that they have all been supportive.
Sfeir predicts that Galerie Sfeir-Semler will open again. "I am not closing the gallery. We are waiting," she says. "I did not open the gallery to make a profit," she adds. "I opened it to give the people a cultural space to exchange ideas -- to get other ideas besides war and destruction."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tate Modern Announces Plans for an Annex NYTimes

Tate Modern, which now says it is the most visited modern-art museum on earth, unveiled plans on Tuesday for a striking $397 million extension intended to be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

The annex, which resembles glass boxes stacked up arbitrarily to form a 220-foot pyramid, has been designed by the Swiss firm Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the same architects who in the late 1990’s turned an abandoned power station on the south bank of the Thames, across from St. Paul’s Cathedral, into Tate Modern.

The addition will make the museum comparable in size to the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The extraordinary success of Tate Modern since its opening in 2000 explains the need for more space.

“It was designed for 1.8 million people per year,” said Sir Nicholas Serota, who as director of Tate also oversees Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives, “and now we have over four million visitors per year.” The Tate said that figure compares with 2.5 million visitors annually for the Pompidou and 2.7 million for MoMA.

Vicente Todoli, the director of Tate Modern, said that on weekends “we have people looking at people looking at people looking at art — not the best experience.”

The 11-story annex, which will be entered either from a new plaza or through Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall, will provide relief from crowding by offering new galleries of different shapes and sizes intended to accommodate installations, videos, film, photography, performance and other nontraditional art forms.

The opportunity to build emerged by good fortune: the French-owned electricity company E.D.F Energy, which in 2000 retained the southern third of the Tate Modern building as a substation, decided to release half of this space as part of its own modernization.

Assigned to the southwestern flank of the site, Tate Modern’s planned annex should give new momentum to the transformation of the south bank of the Thames, a district that was long abandoned and in recent years has benefited from the 20 or so cultural and entertainment institutions that now line the river’s edge, from Westminster to Tower Bridge. These include the Festival Hall, the National Theater and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

The novelty in the Tate Modern annex is that it will turn the museum’s face away from the river and toward the borough of Southwark. “The river is the east-west axis,” said Nicholas Stanton, leader of the Southwark Council, “and now we will have a north-south axis, from St. Paul’s Cathedral, across the Millennium Bridge, through Turbine Hall and south into Southwark.”

The museum’s role in urban development is one reason that the London Development Agency has been the first to invest — $12.7 million — in the expansion. And that is all Sir Nicholas has available so far. But while the extension will really cost more or less the same amount as the original conversion of the power station, he seems unperturbed.

“We are in England,” he said with a smile. “No one asks you to do this. We start with a very strong idea and a lot of people who are interested in helping. We don’t start with a war chest. We start with an ambition and a need. If it catches on, we’ll find the funding.”

The timing looks good.

In the late 1990’s, when Tate Modern was given $90 million from national lottery profits for its building conversion project, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s own planned extension was refused such aid, by all accounts because of opposition to Daniel Libeskind’s very modern design.

Since then, public resistance to contemporary architecture has softened. And because Tate Modern is now the strongest symbol of London’s rapid emergence as a cultural capital, it could become a good candidate to receive more lottery funds. As for private contributions, Sir Nicholas said it might be possible to name some galleries after major donors.

For Londoners, though, the principal curiosity will be the annex’s appearance. And here, Mr. Herzog and Mr. De Meuron have chosen not to be shy. In a statement they said that it would be “simpleminded arrogance” for the annex to dominate Tate Modern, but that it would also be “false modesty” to hide it behind the existing building.

Thus, as seen from the river, the top of the pyramid, or ziggurat, as one architecture critic described it, will be visible above the broad facade of the current museum. Viewed from the south, though, the annex will make a far stronger statement, with its thick glass windows and walls suggesting transparency and solidity.

“A lot has still to be defined, and that is on purpose,” Mr. Herzog said. “We are free to make changes up the end. This is a working strategy.”

Still, he and his team have already decided to make use of three large, circular oil tanks that were used by the oil-fired power station until 1961. These will serve as the annex’s basement and even afford room for a new 400-seat auditorium. With light brought into the annex through various openings, a wide staircase sweeping up 10 floors will then provide an internal logic to a building that from the outside can look almost accidental.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New York to Las Vegas: Artist Travels Via Virtual Exhibition

Pop artist Peter Max, whose work has been seen on everything from a Boeing 777 Continental jumbo jet to the first U.S. 10-cent stamp, will soon be visible over the airwaves.

The Art of Peter Max Gallery, one of two galleries in the world that exclusively sells Max’s paintings, is holding its first-ever virtual exhibition on Sept. 2.

Via a live high-speed Internet connection, the artist, who will be filmed in his studio in New York, will communicate virtually with guests in Las Vegas through plasma screens at the gallery. Through that interactive set-up, he will take visitors on a personal tour of his workspace, discuss his art with collectors and fans, and he intends to draw an original dedication for any guest who purchases a painting during the week of the event.

“Nothing has ever been done like this before. Being able to interact with the artist virtually is something new and exciting that Peter has wanted to do for our art collectors since we opened the gallery,” said David Hakan, founder & CEO of the Art of Peter Max Gallery.

Since gaining prominence in the 1960s as part of the psychedelia movement in graphic design, Max has had his work exhibited in more than 70 museums worldwide. Often referred to as a modern pop icon, he has painted six U.S. presidents, 235 U.S. border murals, and was the official artist for more than a dozen national and international sporting events.

This inaugural virtual exhibition at the Art of Peter Max Gallery will be open to the public on Sept. 2 beginning at 1 p.m. ARTINFO

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Art Is Among Worst-Performing Investments, Merrill Lynch Says

Art is one of the worst ways for investors to try to make money, even as paintings by Picasso and Klimt sell for more than $100 million apiece, according to a Merrill Lynch & Co. study.

While stocks or bonds are almost certain to make investors a profit over five years, art has a high chance of declining in value, the world's biggest brokerage company said. The probability of losses on small-cap stocks, corporate bonds and long-term treasury bonds is 3 percent or less if they're held for five years. Art investors have a 17 percent chance of losing money over five years, Merrill said.

Soaring prices for art stirred interest from banks and dealers in 2004, when about 12 art funds seeking to raise as much as $150 million were planned. Only one or two, including London's Fine Art Fund, ever got off the ground. Merrill's investment strategy report, dated July 17, helps to explain why.

``Art, gold and commodities offered the least attractive risk-reward potential, providing inferior returns while generating substantially more risk,'' Merrill said. The three asset classes ``may be more appropriate investments for those who have truly long-term horizons,'' it said.

Merrill's study uses data on returns going back to 1969 for most assets and to 1976 for art, provided by index-maker Art Market Research, which tracks auction prices. Merrill aims to show that most investors do better if they hang on for three years or more, while many day traders and short-term investors lose money.

Klimt Purchase

Modern art prices have more than doubled since 1998, and some contemporary price indexes have trebled in 10 years, according to Art Market Research. Broader measures of the art market haven't fared as well and modern and contemporary prices are being buoyed by a narrowing group of the most expensive paintings, the indexes show.

Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetics magnate, made headlines in June when he paid $135 million for a Gustav Klimt portrait in a private transaction -- more than any painting has ever fetched at auction. The top auction prices are a Pablo Picasso work that sold for $104.2 million in 2004 at Sotheby's in New York, and the same artist's portrait of his mistress, ``Dora Maar au Chat,'' which fetched $95.2 million at a Sotheby's New York auction in May.

Philip Hoffman, who runs the Fine Art Fund, said he's made big profits by selling paintings within a year or so and aims to expand. However, he has never officially disclosed the size of his fund, or which paintings he sold.

Gold Tops 1970s

Art has done worse in some decades than in others. In the 1970s, art had the lowest 12-month return of eight asset classes and the highest chance of losses, Merrill calculated. Gold was the best investment in that decade, outperforming stocks and bonds with less risk.

Art swapped places with gold in the 1980s, doing better than stocks, bonds and real estate. In the 1990s, art was again a loser, only a little ahead of commodities and gold, which racked up 12-month losses more than 50 percent of the time. Standard & Poor's 500 shares were the best investment.

Real estate and small U.S. stocks are faring best in the current decade. Art, foreign stocks and S&P 500 shares are the worst performers, Merrill's charts showed.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tate is coming to a screen near you

The Tate wants its presence to be felt beyond the Turbine Hall or Liverpool Docks and, to that end, it plans to transform its website into a broadband arts channel. Tate Media, which will launch this September, will operate across the internet, television production, magazine publishing and major public events.

The gallery is one of the first major arts institutions to create a division to oversee its new media output and, according to the head of Tate Media, Will Gompertz, intellectual property rights are at the heart of its leap into the cultural future. "It is important that within the visual arts landscape Tate has an arts channel that gets our point across and works very closely with artists and curators," he says. "Now we can't have that unless we own the content." Read the full article of the Guardian