Art World's Weekly Roundup

The White House.
Art Round-Up for The Week of September 23rd, 2007
By Alex Starace

The Builders by Jacob Lawrence.
Everyone redecorates sometimes – even Laura Bush. The first lady has been overseeing the refurbishing of the White House’s new Green Room. Some of the changes are minor: a few couches were reupholstered, new draperies were installed, and a new rug was added.

And some changes are major: Mrs. Bush decided to hang Jacob Lawrence’s painting, The Builders, on the wall. The work, which was acquired by the White House Acquisition Trust, is fast becoming one of Mrs. Bush’s favorites.

The piece was bought at auction from Christie’s for $2.5 million – a world record sale for the artist Jacob Lawrence. The newly-hung painting matches Lawrence’s To the Defense, which hangs in the Bush’s private dinning room. [The Washington Post]


Detail of the Page with the Devil Illustration.
The “Codex Gigas,” the largest known manuscript from the medieval world, is now on view in the Czech Republic, the country of its origin. The book was created in the 13th Century and is also known as the “Devil’s Bible.”

It weighs 165 pounds and measures 36 x 20 x 9 inches. The Swedes plundered the tome from Prague in 1649. Since that time it has been kept in the Swedish Royal Library in Stockholm – that is, until just recently when it went on loan to the city of Prague, where it’s being displayed in a small, secure, specially designed room. Visitors are allowed to view the manuscript ten at a time.

Legend has it that the manuscript acquired its nickname, “Devil’s Bible,” because the book’s author was a monk fated to be walled up alive. In desperation, the monk pleaded for leniency, promising that in one night he would create a book honoring his monastery and all known human knowledge.

As the hour got late, the monk realized he could never fulfill the promise, so he had to turn to the devil – and sell his soul – to save his life. In gratitude, there’s a large portrait of Satan on one of the book’s pages. [The New York Times] & [The Official Codex Gigas Webpage]
Second Floor Atrium with the Broken Obelisk.
Ladder for Booker T Washington by Puryear, one of the pieces that will be in the atrium.
The MoMA will have a bit of a new look this year. Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk, which has long been featured prominently on the second-floor atrium of MoMA’s renovated building, will be moved to the outdoor sculpture garden. In place of the obelisk will be a series of five sculptures by Martin Puryear, who is scheduled to have a retrospective show at MoMA this November.

Carol Vogel of The New York Times reports that this is all according to plan: the curators view the atrium as an indoor sculpture garden able to accommodate a variety of different pieces. [The New York Times]


The much-publicized dispute between Swiss artist Christoph Buchel and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was ruled on by a federal judge last week. In autumn 2006, Mr. Buchel had been contracted to build an on-site installation entitled Training Ground for Democracy at Mass MoCA. But arguments about money, the fidelity of the project, and the feasibility of some of Mr. Buchel’s proposals quickly became heated. Eventually, Mr. Buchel refused to continue. Seemingly, the project was over.

However, Mass MoCA has a bit of a problem on its hands: the half-completed installation covers a space the size of a football field and includes large, difficult-to-move items such as car chasses, a two-story house, and a carnival ride. The museum decided to explore the possibility of showing the uncompleted work. Predictably enough, the two parties quickly found themselves in court, where, despite the invocation of the Visual Artists’ Rights Act of 1990, Judge Michael A. Ponsor ruled that Mass MoCA could show Mr. Buchel’s installation as long as the museum clearly explains that it’s unfinished.
Installation of Training Ground for Democracy.
Several art world insiders are dissatisfied with the decision – they feel that the case sets a precedent for the erosion of artists’ rights. That said, it should also be noted that the fate of the piece is still up in the air: the director of Mass MoCA, Joseph C. Thompson, has not decided if the museum will actually show the work. But he wanted to make sure his institution had the option to do so. [The New York Times]


Who says art isn’t popular? The Tate in London reports that it has had 7.7 million visitors in the past year to its complex of four English galleries. Most impressive, the Tate Modern had 5.2 million of those visitors, making it the second-most visited attraction in Britain, behind only the Blackpool pleasure beach. Officials at the Tate attribute the number of visitors to good planning, spectacular architecture, and popular exhibitions. [The Guardian]
Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, including Test Site by Carsten Holler.

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