Art News Headlines: May 9, 2011
As the art world pounces on Venice for its sprawling biennale this summer, a group of international artists reminds visitors of the importance and beauty of the city itself. They have produced a series of personal photographs of the city, which will be published and displayed in a special exhibition during the biennale. Selected works are to be auctioned off later this year as part of a campaign to raise funds to save Venice from flooding. The exhibition “Real Venice”, on public view at the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore following June 4, includes work by artist such as Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Nan Goldin, and Candida Höfer, among others. Each artist was invited to visit Venice and take a portrait of the city. A print of each edition of the resulting work was donated to the non-profit Venice in Peril, which is organizing the show.
Also in art news, an underground art project currently happening in southern China exposes government scandal, as a group of artists are seeking to create gigantic portraits of government officials convicted of embezzlement and other crimes. The stark, monochromatic portraits, painted by a team of artists in Shenzhen’s Dafen village—known for its mass-produced knock-offs of iconic Western paintings—are the brainchild of outspoken artist and film-maker Zhang Bingjian, who stated that he was “shocked” there were so many corrupt officials in China. The group has collected the names of thousands of officials to be considered for portraiture. In an interview, Bingjian said, “Art should engage in social reform. Art isn’t an ivory tower. It’s not just for making money or a market for collectors. Art should present a certain voice.”
Wet Afternoon, Ethel Spowers
The growing demand for Picasso ceramics was in evidence at Christie’s in New York last week, where a collection of more than 150 earthenware plates, pitchers, plaques and vases sold out. Many pieces doubled and tripled their estimated fetching points. The real diamond in the rough, however, came in the form of a print of a sea of umbrellas by little-known Australian artist Ethel Spowers. Experts had estimated the print, entitled Wet Afternoon, would fetch between £3,000 and £5,000. It instead sold for £51,650 to an American collector. The stylized, slightly futuristic prints made by the better-known Grosvenor School artists of the time, Claude Flight, Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews, are highly collectable, with some examples selling for up to £100,000. But Spowers, whose work is rare and mostly found in Australia, has lagged behind. Until this sale, her auction record was a mere £9,000.
A major public art festival due to open in Rio, announced late last year as the “Semana de Arte” has been cancelled. Put on by Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz, the art week—a precursor to a series of events lasting some months—was expected to begin this month with large-scale works by 16 artists, including Olafur Eliasson and William Kentridge, scattered across city landmarks like the Sugarloaf. It was scrapped after the two private companies responsible for production decided to dissolve their partnership. Muniz commented, “We had guaranteed sponsors, everything was up and running until there began to be disagreements and the companies involved decided to cancel the show. I had to apologize to all the artists, first saying it would be postponed and later giving up on the idea. This put me in a very difficult position; many people worked hard on this and wanted it to happen as planned.”
Australian artist Andrew Rogers presents the first exhibition devoted to the entire Rhythms of Life project, the world’s largest contemporary land art undertaking. From May 7-28, the non-profit arts organization 18th Street Arts Center displays “Andrew Rogers: Time and Space”, a selection of 68 large-scale photographs of Rogers’s groundbreaking outdoor art projects. The exhibition showcases aerial and satellite photographs of 47 sculptures created over a period of 13 years, marking the first time these images are publicly displayed together. Also on view is a looped, 40-minute film that documents the artist’s extraordinary creative process. Rogers has spent the last 13 years engaging over 6,700 people in 13 countries on seven continents to create stone sculptures in deserts, fjords, gorges, national parks and on mountainous slopes.
The black-and-white extremes straddled by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen in his work, inspiration and, seemingly, in his life, fit together like a jigsaw puzzle in a new museum exhibit entitled “Savage Beauty”. The study of contrasts in the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute shows McQueen, the artist and intellectual, as he was celebrated during his career—and even after his suicide last year. McQueen was always drawn to a challenge, especially when he could question normal conventions of beauty and fashion, says exhibit curator Andrew Bolton, citing a Shakespeare quote that McQueen had tattooed on his arm as a starting point for the show: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.” Among the must-sees of the exhibit are over-the-top feather dresses, antler heads, molded torsos and floral embroideries.
Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.