Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Art World's Weekly Roundup

From Mass MOCA ‘Training Ground for Democracy’.
Weekly Roundup
by Laura Berlin

The Albertina.
The Albertina, Vienna, Europe's print center with one million prints and 65,000 drawings has plans to expand in a bold new multi-media direction with the acquisition of the Batliner collection of modern art estimated at €500 million. The 500-piece collection boasts an impressive list of artists and titles including  Renoir's Portrait of a Young Girl, Francis Bacon's Seated Figure, and a bronze bust of Amenophis by Alberto Giacometti though everything from Monet to Richter is represented.

Dr. Herbert Batliner, Rima Fine Art.
While the philanthropists in question, Dr. Herbert Batliner, a Liechtenstein lawyer and his wife Rita are placing their collection with the Albertina, it is a permanent deposit and not a traditional donation; ownership will remain with the Vaduz-based R & H Batliner Art Foundation while the Albertina will have full rights of ownership including lending and reattributions. The Batliner's honest attempt to 'ensure the collection beyond their lifetime' has raised the eyebrows of other Viennese public galleries who view the Albertina's move into multiple areas of media an encroachment on their own territory. (The Art Newspaper)
L. to r.: Francis Bacon's Sitting figure, 1966; Renoir’s Portrait of a Young Girl.
In Mass MOCA's groundbreaking new exhibition "Training Ground for Democracy", Swiss artist Christoph Büchel reinvents performance art and institutional critique by staging it as an installation/legal battle, despite the fact that Büchel is not endorsing the work as completed and has not authorized the museum to display it to the public.
Above: A mobile home was hoisted into a warehouse, an exhibition space of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, last fall for Christoph Büchel’s art show, which is now in dispute.

Below, l. to r.: A tanker truck from the installation, which is called “Training Ground for Democracy.” The show combines artifacts of Western culture with scenes from a land of war and paranoia; Because of concerns about legal action by Mr. Büchel, museum workers have shielded all the huge objects in the warehouse from view with tall plastic tarps.
The installation's original concept, meant to blend together Western culture and environments of upheaval on a life-sized scale, was slated for last December.

Joseph C. Thompson, the museum’s director, said he believed his institution had an obligation to open the show, given its limited budget and the effort it has put into the exhibit.
However, after the installation and reinstallation of a two-story house, the selection and a replacement of a mobile home, the recreation of a vintage run-down cinema, locating an decontaminated oil tanker, a request to burn and bomb-damage the fuselage of a large jetliner and doubling their $160,000 budget, Director Joseph C. Thompson decided the institution had had enough. What has been created will be hidden by plastic tarps to avoid legal hassle and attendees can wander through Mass MOCA's halls imagining what they are beside aided by some photographs and additional materials on past Mass MOCA installations.

Despite the outrage voiced by Büchel, Büchel's lawyer, Donn Zaretsky, and Büchel's representation, Hauser & Wirth, all of whom maintain it was the museum itself which caused the project to spiral out of control — it is likely that the artist's obsessive compulsive collaborative techniques were merely a tactic in making a larger statement. (

Pia Bertelsen (left) and Jan Egesborg carry out hotspot art.
If May 23 taught us anything it was that Vladimir Putin's baby blues might not glisten with delight when jokes are made at his expense. Prior to the President's arrival Wednesday in Vienna, Danish artist Jan Egesborg, half of the collaborative street art team "Surrend", was arrested for mounting posters that imply Putin shoots journalists. Though the artist was released after (almost) all his materials had been confiscated there still remains six works en route to Germany for exhibition.

The very same day Moscow's customs office stopped the transport of The Staedtische Gallerie's upcoming show "Learning from Moscow", most notably a piece by the Blue Noses Group, The Candle of Our Life, in which Pushkin lights a beer bloated Jesus's. The works have been refused entry for 'fear of international protest' however, curator Johannes Schmidt, is not surprised by this set back as the political climate in Russia has toughened during the coming elections and its relation to Germany has cooled. The hostage works will be shown in reproduction only but other political commentators are warned, in his free time Putin is known to be quite the martial arts buff. (Artforum)

Mikhail Kamensky.
While the political climate in Russia might be a tad hostile as of late, that in no way translates into a weakening in their art market. This week Sotheby’s opened its first auction house in Moscow the timing of which was planned to coincide with an exhibition at the State Historical House which will promote the upcoming Sotheby’s London Impressionist and Contemporary art sale. Works on view include Nympheas, 1904, by Claude Monet and Francis Bacon’s Self Portrait, 1978. Mikhail Kamensky, the director of the Moscow office states of the move to Moscow, “Sotheby’s has worked successfully with Russia for many years, but working without a Moscow presence is no longer possible. Before, a small number of Russian collectors and dealers were buying only Russian art in London and New York. Now there is a large number of Russians who are buying all types of art and who are buying in cities all over the world." (
On the short list:
William M. Griswold will be the Morgan Library’s next director. (Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times)

The Morgan Library & Museum has named William M. Griswold, a former Morgan curator, as their new director. Griswold, most recently the director and president of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, will face programming challenges after the institution's $106m expansion in 2006 though he has already expressed a number of innovative concepts including expanding sections of the collection in their 20th and 21st century holdings, and increasing the number of events to be held at the Morgan's concert hall. (The New York Times)

Roy DeForest (1930-2007).
Roy DeForest (1930-2007), an artist aligned with the Bay Area Funk movement and professor emeritus at UC died this week, he was seventy-seven. DeForest’s work captured attention in the 1970s with his cartoon-like style, pop-culture themes and Dadaist irony most notably in a 1974 retrospective exhibition held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art later traveling to the Whitney Museum of American Art New York. (

John Stuyinski broke the Tate Modern's record for the largest individual donation with a commitment of £5 million ($9.87 million). The new funding will be used in the expansion of the Tate’s new building on the south side of London. (

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