Artists Walid Raad, Emily Jacir, Shirin Neshat and over a hundred other artists, curators and writers have signed a petition calling for a boycott of the Frank Gehri-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which will be built on Saadiyat Island, the United Arab Emirates. They are demanding that “the Guggenheim Foundation and its Abu Dhabi partner take immediate and meaningful steps to safeguard the rights of the workers constructing the new branch museum,” according to a press release issued by an international coalition of artists. “Artists should not be asked to exhibit their work in buildings built on the backs of exploited workers,” says Raad in the release. “Those working with bricks and mortar deserve the same kind of respect as those working with cameras and brushes.”
The Guggenheim is touting its latest branch as “the largest museum in a series of cultural institutions planned as part of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, which will serve the world as a destination for the advancement of knowledge and the understanding of culture through the arts.”
The protesting coalition’s press release cites two reports issued by Human Rights Watch regarding the treatment of migrant workers within the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This report, the release states, documents “a cycle of abuse that leaves migrant workers deeply indebted, poorly paid, and unable to defend their rights or even quit their jobs. The UAE authorities responsible for developing Saadiyat Island have failed to tackle the root causes of abuse: unlawful recruiting fees, broken promises of wages, and a sponsorship system that gives employers virtually unlimited power over workers.”
Last September, the Guggenheim pledged that they would protect the rights of laborers working on the construction of their new branch. But the petitioners argue that the Guggenheim and its Abu Dhabi partner, the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) have not yet done enough to ensure that those rights are protected. In the petition, they demand that the Guggenheim Foundation “obtain contractual guarantees that will protect the rights of workers employed in the construction and maintenance of its new branch museum in Abu Dhabi.”
This petition follows a similar initiative organized by NYU faculty and students engaged in ensuring the rights of construction workers who will be building the NYU Abu Dhabi campus, also on Saadiyat Island. Saadiyat is Arabic for “happiness.”
Artists and writers calling for the Guggenheim boycott also include Yto Barrada, Rene Gabri, Mona Hatoum, Akram Zaatari, Andrew Ross, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Janet Cardiff, Willie Doherty, Hans Haacke, Alfredo Jaar, Barbara Kruger, Antonio Muntadas, Paul Pfeiffer, and many others.
Guggenheim gets turned down on its plan to create the Hot Dog Stand Frank Lloyd Wright would have built
The Guggenheim Museum considered the hot dog vendors outside its NYC landmark designed by Wright to not be in keeping with the look and style of the venue and in that vein pitched an idea to the city to build their own. Reports say that they thought the benefits would be increased revenue and a elimination of the generic style brightly colored stands. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down the plan unanimously though saying “It detracts from the landmark and causes it to compete with the main building,” Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the commission, said of the proposed kiosk. “All of our standard appropriateness tests are not met here.” Too bad since I would have loved to see what they would have done, someone needs to publish the spec drawings for that plan. Read more here
TED Prize this year goes to Street Photo-Grafitti Artist “JR the Photograffeur”
Part of me is just glad that the joke awarding of food pundit Jamie Oliver is past and Jr is actually interesting albeit I wish I knew more about his work prior to now. NPR’s blog “The Picture Show” does a good job of covering a broad array of his work so I won’t say more then check it out. Read more here
Stereotypical Art Show Award Goes To Sue Williams: ‘Al-Qaeda Is the CIA’
I read about her show in the New York Times (a article with not a single image?) and was both annoyed by the lack of photos but more so curious as to what this show looked like. After looking up the official 303 Gallery website I enjoyably went through every photo. Sadly not for ascetic reasons or conceptual ones but the show is a virtual cornucopia of the current trends, tropes & stereotypes of the gallery scene today all in one places. There is the mish-mash theme, publicly antagonizing titles, the glory in “shitty drawing”, the mix of rich color highly elaborate wallpaper with monochromatic underplayed items, the go to masturbation references, war of the sexes & ironic elevation of the sensational and banal. I would have been able to win my Art World bingo game for the month but was just missing either deer illustration, skull illustration, taxidermy animal or human silhouette. Maybe next time. Read more here & See more here
NUDE in Chicago
Part of the Sculpture Objects & Functional Art (SOFA) exposition this year in Chicago (Nov 5th-7th) will be a exhibition of sculpture being built at booth 920 with help from the audience. Chicago artist Dana Major Kanovitz will be building the sculpture out of paper that the audience will hand to her. This is part of the larger series on show at the Perimeter Gallery which is showing a group show of artist who are looking to take a new stab at the oldest of genres in art, The Nude. You can read the press release and see images here
Danes get upset over Lego Sex
Employees at the town hall of Roskilde near Copenhagen have taken offence at the work on show in the building, paintings of two men made of Lego figures having sex. According to Danish press reports, artist Svend Ahnstrøm’s piece, which shows ‘Kurt and Anders’ pleasuring themselves in a public park, has prompted three internal complaints. But no objections have been raised about Lego depictions of Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden. “It’s hard to believe that something like this can offend people in today’s Denmark,” said Ahnstrøm. Deep down I wonder if his real thought was “Three people? a lousy three people? Seriously people are too lazy to protest….” cause look at the work and sing “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong” the artist even agrees since he places Kurt and Anders at the bottom of his page last on his site. See more here
Mall in Manchester, England creates replica of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Tomb & Treasure
Read more here
Dutch Venice Biennale 2010 – Dutch pavilion
The Dutch pavilion is very interesting this time round and “we make money not art” does a good job of covering it. Read more here
Youtube & The Guggenheim have released their short list for the “Play” Biennial and there is a God since my favorite art video not only is back from the dead but has a new work out. Strindberg and Helium at the Beach tell the tale of a fatalistic Swedish playwright and his best friend a bubble gum pink ballon named Helium. Even though Bad at Sports didn’t make the short list if “Play” does nothing more then vault artist Eun-Ha Park and Strindberg & Helium back into production I call it a roaring success.
- What is this you say? The Art world has a habit of being delinquent on payments (even more so since October of 2008) and that can have larger ramifications throughout the entire ecosystem? Balderdash I say, pure poppycock; where did I put my monocle. Read more here
- A new Art Fair called of all things “VIP” that has no physical location and is 100% virtual on the net, marketing is not discussed nor noticable yet, there is no meet and greet which is the cornerstone of art, you will be expected to buy without ever seeing the work in the flesh & they want to charge $20,000 a booth and be held 22-30 January. If this didn’t have Gagosian, Sadie Coles, Emman uel Perrotin and David Zwirner involved I would be rolling on the floor laughing, oh wait I still am. Laugh more here
- Auction house Christie’s has hired, from outside, a former publishing, record company and Disney executive as its new CEO. Read more here
- Chuck Close does a public interview at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he discusses his life, art, and the creative process. Watch more here
- The Art Institute of Chicago Sues the Engineering Firm that built it’s Modern Wing citing cracks in concrete floors, condensation clouding the main vestibule glass and an air-conditioning system that can’t maintain a safe climate for artwork. The estimated cost of repairs is $10 million. Read more here
- Stuart E. Hample, Humorist and Cartoonist, Dies at 84. Read more here Also Howard Brodie, Combat and Courtroom Artist, Dies at 94 Read more here
- Deep in us we all love science and have had great joy in the data coming from the Large Hadron Collider and even more in the sillyness surrounding it but it’s interesting to watch scientists fall all over themselves trying to address what would happen if the beam hit anything organic. Watch more here
One more video from the “Play” Biennial, this is fun lol.
The fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar square has been on our radar for a while and I am sure will continue to be so since the British government plans on using it as a compliment to the Turner prize or so by using it as a soapbox to debate and showcase contemporary art.
The current work that is on display at the plinth, Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle is slotted to be taken down in 2012 and the fight to see who gets the spot in time for the Olympics has begun. Here is a quick rundown of the shortlist via UK’s The Independent (my money is on Katharina Fritsch) :
Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset A sombre wit underpins the serious nature of work by the Scandanavian couple who have collaborated since they met in 1995. They have made work in memory of gay victims of the Nazi regime and, in 2005, they built a Prada boutique in the middle of the Texan desert. Whatever their proposal for Trafalgar Square, we hope they don’t lose their sense of humour.
Mariele Neudecker German born, 45-year-old Neudecker made her name with sculptures of landscapes, placed inside glass vitrines. Self-contained worlds, that come out of the Romantic tradition in art – although her work is anything but traditional. She used the cry of seagulls on London’s Millenium bridge in 2008. And she sank a boat and a house underwater that question our relationship with the environment.
Allora & Calzadilla Allora and Calzadilla are an artist couple who live in Puerto Rico. Their work is usually political and they have a strong reputation in the UK. At the Serpentine gallery in 2007 they made a large chamber, like a war bunker, and inside musicians played military music. They work in many mediums, using film, sound, sculpture, performance and photography.
Hew Locke Locke’s work explores colonial themes in an exuberant kind of pop art. He has played with ideas about the British royal family. Princess Diana became a voodoo doll and he covered a figure of the Queen Mother with skulls. He critiques the past, looking at how our world interrelates: from African wars to empire, pop culture to Shakespeare.
Katharina Fritsch Like the Surrealists, Fritsch is known for artwork that makes the familiar appear strange and uncanny. Born in Germany, Fritsch has represented her country at the Venice Biennale and had major exhibitions at London museums. Giant rats and monochrome men wearing suits appear in her work, which have popular as well as critical appeal. She is a mature artist and her proposal will be polished and spectacular.
Brian Griffiths An eccentric sense of adventure runs through sculptures by Griffiths. A graduate of Goldsmiths college, the British artist has used old furniture to construct an elaborate wooden gyspy caravan. His work plays with myth as well as history and his sculpture comes from an imaginary world as fantastical as a child’s. No doubt, his proposal for the Fourth Plinth will be made from old junk but his idea, we hope, will contain a touch of magic.
- Also Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) has been greenlit to start construction on it’s $150-plus million development project in University Circle later this year and be completed in 2012. Read More Here
- We talked a while back about the Guggenheim’s Youtube partnership entitled “Play” where artists were invited to submit their videos to possibly be part of a juried exhibition later this year in every one of their museums. Well that jury list has been announced: Takashi Murakami, Ryan McGinley, Douglas Gordon, Marilyn Minter and Shirin Neshat, artists known for their work in a variety of mediums; Stefan Sagmeister, a graphic designer; Laurie Anderson, the performance artist, musician and filmmaker; the music group Animal Collective; and the filmmakers Darren Aronofsky and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Read More Here
- Sorry but I have a hard time calling something revolutionary or defying categorization when it’s been done for over two decades in general and over a decade by Michigan Avenue Ad houses. Its akin to saying an artist doing Matrix style bullet time video leaves you speechless if it was done in 2040. Film is sequential still frames that create motion, find something to write about NPR that is actually Art if you want to be breathless NPR not a music video esque work done in After Effects. It’s only slightly annoying when Artists speak of their work as revolutionary, interdisciplinary or an exciting hybrid that redefines a genre since it’s hard to promote as a artist but it is greatly annoying when a publication ruberstamps such hyperbole as true. I know it’s the NPR blog but….. still. Don’t Read More Here
The Guggenheim as of this past Monday has begun accepting submissions for a video art exhibition in October that will be at all of the foundation’s museums: the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
The catch is they want all submissions via Youtube.
The plan titled “YouTube Play” is planned on being a biennial event to discover innovative work outside of the contemporary art track. Deadline for submissions is July 31st and will go before the Guggenheim curatorial staff. Submissions will be trimed to 200 from which 20 will be chosen via a jury of diverse disciplines.
The final 20 will then go on simultaneous view at all the Guggenheim museums. The 200 will be promoted on the YouTube Play channel.
All in all this will help bump the visability of the Guggenheim, give Youtube some cultural cachet and remotely possible, court the Guggenheim some atypical advertisers which are becoming more and more sought after players.
There is concern from various sections that this type of potpourri art that is only good for a short time and then tossed out, doesn’t build a common voice in the greater art discussion, doesn’t build artists and allow them to grow and doesn’t give institutions any foundation for future work. As much as I am more egalitarian on this subject then many I whole heartedly agree that it’s just junk food.
I agree with the Guggenheim’s response that if this was the only thing they did it would be an issue but it isn’t and honestly this is better then a motorcycle exhibit potentially in the long term.
I still think largely the issue that is the elephant in the room is the general populace is caring less and less and the numbers on multiple fronts reflect that and even pandering doesn’t work.
This Youtube Play is little more then a American Idol, Art/Design Star attempt on a zero budget and maybe something good will come out of it? I am still interested more so to see what MOCA will produce in the months to come. I feel that is the most intelligent and serious test case for this debate in play.
I don’t see institutions solving this problem, nor more focus on curatorial practices sadly. We are at a back to basics issue in my mind and the first group of banded artists that can properly create remotely unified work that speaks to the general public on a regional level while having some teeth and is smartly marketed will be the spark that can get things rolling again on a mass level.
I almost caught a glimpse of that in 2008 with the election, the general public seemed to remember the power of the visual image and joyfully get caught up in it. I would love for something other then politics or sex to do that but it’s still interesting.