May 17, 2001

MATTHEW DRUTT JOINS THE MENIL COLLECTION

Matthew Drutt has been appointed Chief Curator of the Menil Collection (www.menil.org) in Houston, Texas. Drutt, 38, arrives from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (www.guggenheim.org) in New York, where he has been responsible for collection-based projects and publications since 1993. The appointment comes less than three months after the Guggenheim hired Walter Hopps as an adjunct senior curator of twentieth-century art, and may answer questions about the direction of the Menil in the wake of Hopps’ semi-departure (since he actually retains his position at the Menil as well). “The Menil is a rarefied institution that doesn't present blockbusters. I see this as an opportunity to build relationships with artists,” states Drutt. “My hope is to create an identity for the institution by forging relationships with current artists, just as the de Menils did with Surrealists and Cubists.”

Drutt is set to begin his position at the Menil on June 1, 2001. Before joining the highly regarded Texas institution, he oversaw the Guggenheim’s website and spearheaded the Guggenheim Virtual Museum initiative in addition to his regular curatorial duties. Drutt also organized numerous exhibitions at the Guggenheim, including “Photography: An Expanded View” and “Amazons of the Avant-Garde.” He will also finish work on the Guggenheim’s upcoming Kazimir Malevich exhibition slotted to open on May 30, 2002, as a guest curator.

The Menil Collection, founded in 1987 to house the collection of John and Dominique de Menil, is primarily identified with four areas: antiquities, Byzantine art, the arts of tribal cultures, and twentieth-century art. Drutt insists, however, that his focus will remain right where it is. “I’m not going to change my interests at the Menil. Will I still be interested in technology? Absolutely,” says Drutt, though he declined to comment on the Guggenheim Virtual Museum, which has yet to launch after years of delays. “We have found a person with the wide-ranging experience and depth of knowledge that is needed in this key position,” comments Ned Rifkin, director of the Menil. “Matthew will make a major contribution to our future direction.”

Reena Jana

May 16, 2001

BRITAIN'S FREE ADMISSION POLICY GAINS MOMENTUM

Mark Jones, the new director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (www.vam.ac.uk) in London, has started his tenure this month by announcing the abolition of entrance fees for all visitors by November 2001. The new policy is set to go into effect just in time for the opening of the museum's new British Galleries, which tell the story of British design from 1500–1900, and leaves only the Natural History Museum and the Imperial War Museum as top London museums still charging a fee at the door since culture secretary Chris Smith initiated a “free admission policy” in 1998 aimed at making public collections more accessible.

Despite the policy, some museums have continued to charge entrance fees because public museum and gallery trustees, though appointed by the government, operate independently. But changes in the tax law introduced in the March budget have made the measure more attractive. Free museums and galleries can now claim back the VAT (a value-added tax of 17.5 percent) on their maintenance and operating expenses. Previously, only charging institutions could get back the tax because even a minimal entrance fee changed their status to that of a business, thus allowing them to make claims on expenses incurred to increase profitability.

Since the fiscal advantage of charging at the door has been eliminated, free public museums and galleries—most notably the National Gallery, the British Museum and the Tate—can expect new funds at their disposal in the form of tax returns. Moreover, this change in their fortunes is apparently not a threat to future public funding. A spokesperson for the Culture Department insisted that the government is committed to continuing its support, a policy that has proved immensely successful. Thanks to more than 5 million in subsidies from the Culture Department, the Tate Modern opened its doors for free last May and has welcomed more than 5.25 million visitors to date, far surpassing the expected two million, not to mention the annual visitor figures at comparable institutions such as the MoMA (www.moma.org) in New York (1.2 million) and the Centre Georges Pompidou (www.cnac-gp.fr/Pompidou/Home.nsf/docs/fhome) in Paris (1.6 million). Free admission has helped make the Tate Modern the most successful venue for contemporary art in the world.

Jennifer Allen

May 15, 2001

YVONNE FORCE A FORCE IN ART WORLD

First she helped Vanessa Beecroft bring Valkyrie-like models wearing Gucci stilettos and nothing else into the Guggenheim museum. Now Yvonne Force Villareal has brought twenty-one biomorphic lamps by conceptual artist Jorge Pardo into the nine-story-high glass atrium of Sotheby’s new uptown headquarters. It’s the first in an ongoing series of noncommercial site-specific installations produced by the auction behemoth in collaboration with the three-person Art Production Fund (www.artproductionfund.org), the nonprofit organization Force Villareal launched last year to produce and support art projects.

“I knew it would be hard to install art in the atrium. It’s so monumental, and there are no white walls,” says Force Villareal. “But we wanted to meet the challenge with a strong voice.” So she recruited Pardo, who often incorporates architectural themes in his work. But don’t expect the lamps to be auctioned on a Sotheby’s block. Works created for the atrium will be returned to the artists. If an artist wants to sell their contribution later, they are free to do so, but Sotheby’s then asks the artist to return the fabrication costs it provided.

The concept was hatched by Force Villareal and Tobias Meyer, director of contemporary art for Sotheby’s Worldwide, who had wanted to sponsor a “philanthropic” project for years. The Pardo installation remains on view for three to six months; Rachel Feinstein Currin is next on the bill. Her works are said to have a more baroque feel than Pardo's sleek designs. According to Force Villareal, Meyer is also open to having Feinstein Currin work with Sotheby’s inventories, even its collection of porcelains or paintings, to create works. “I’m most excited about finding an extended audience for contemporary art,” says Force Villareal. “After all, the typical Sotheby’s audience goes to wine auctions more often than to the Dia Center.”

Reena Jana

May 14, 2001

MADOFF BECOMES DIRECTOR OF MoMA’S WEBSITE

Steven Henry Madoff’s dual identity as art journalist and Internet executive may be perfect for his new position as president and editorial director of the Museum of Modern Art’s impending commercial website. Madoff, former executive editor of Art News, ex–editorial director of Time, Inc.’s Web properties (and frequent Artforum contributor), was hired for the position after spending several months as a consultant advising MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry on how to build a for-profit site. Originally, the project was to be jointly operated with London’s Tate Gallery, but the Tate and MoMA suddenly declared the partnership over in late April.

Madoff won’t comment on how and why the online alliance ended, but states for the record that, though they may be separated, “MoMA and the Tate aren’t divorcing. There may well be a way that we can work together in the future.” And despite his challenging new day job, Madoff insists he’ll have time to continue as art critic for Talk magazine.

How MoMA’s commercial site will actually make money has yet to be determined, along with a launch date. To illustrate the site’s timeliness, though, Madoff points to another New York arts institution that recently announced a similar initiative: “That the Guggenheim is also moving forward with a for-profit online venture suggests that museums need to find new sources of revenue, and that the most adventuresome are interested in cultural products,” he states.

The new MoMA site will operate as a separate entity from the nonprofit museum and its site, which will focus on editorial content rather than serve as an online store. Any profits, however, will go to MoMA.

Reena Jana

May 11, 2001

GUGGENHEIM LAUNCHES ONLINE VENTURE

Remember when a museum’s website consisted only of calendar listings and press releases? In addition to the recent announcement of a for-profit website, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is upping the ante even further by launching the Guggenheim Collection Online (www.guggenheimcollection.org), which features hundreds of works from the New York Guggenheim’s permanent collection alongside commentary by the museum’s curators. The digitized offerings range from the earliest work in the collection—The Hermitage at Pontoise, an 1867 landscape by Camille Pissarro—to the 1994 painting Throbbing Hearts by Ross Bleckner.

The site launched on April 6, but this summer approximately one hundred works will be added from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, followed by highlights from the collections of the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. “This new website will provide our audience with a richer range of experiences with the object,” said Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim’s director. Users can zoom in on each featured work to observe images in detail or peruse artist biographies and art-historical information. An area on recent acquisitions showcases works entering the collection, and a continually updated section entitled “What’s on View Now” offers parts of the collection that are currently on view at the brick-and-mortar museum.

Designed by the Guggenheim’s publications department, the site was launched just as the redesigned and updated Guggenheim Museum Collection: A to Z, the paper guide to the New York museum’s collection, was released. The online offerings from the Guggenheim’s European branches, however, will represent the only extensive guides to those museums’ permanent collections to date. According to the Guggenheim, plans are under way to make the site home to commissioned Web-based projects as well.

Reena Jana

May 10, 2001

DILLER + SCOFIDIO TO BUILD NEW ICA IN BOSTON

The New York architecture firm Diller + Scofidio has been selected to design the new Institute of Contemporary Art (www.icaboston.org) in Boston scheduled to open in 2004. The ICA's board of trustees selected the husband-and-wife team in April from a shortlist that included Boston's Office dA, Iceland's Studio Granda, and Switzerland's Peter Zumthor. “We're thrilled to have selected an American firm that hasn't built much,” states Jill Medvedow, director of the ICA. “We weren't looking for one at the pinnacle of its career. We tried to identify an architectural firm likely to win future honors that we can help.” Until now, the firm's most visible commission has been the renovation of the Brasserie restaurant in Mies van der Rohe's landmark Seagram building in Manhattan. The ICA building is considered the centerpiece of the largest waterfront development in Boston's history, and should be considerably increase the firm's national and international profile.

Medvedow also cites Diller + Scofidio's academic experience and their work as artists as factors that influenced the trustees' decision. Elizabeth Diller is on the faculty at Princeton, while Ricardo Scofidio teaches at Cooper Union; the firm, established in 1979, has exhibited their conceptual architecture and media art at White Box, the Dia Center for the Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art, all in New York.

The new ICA, which will be reestablished as a collecting institution, will occupy 60,000 square feet of the larger, three-million-square-foot $1.2 billion Fan Pier project, planned for a nine-block industrial area located on a now-vacant parcel of Boston's waterfront. “The project is pivotal for us. Surely, it will expand our visibility, but it will also change the perception of our practice,” comments Elizabeth Diller. “Our work is typically expected within the space of the museum rather than defining that space.”

Reena Jana

May 9, 2001

VOLKSBOUTIQUE HITS THE ROAD

Brooklyn-based conceptual artist Christine Hill, fresh from last year's Pilot, the soup-to-nuts creation of a late-night talk show pilot culminating in the actual shooting of an episode at Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York, is hard at work on the latest installment of Volksboutique, a project that began as a secondhand clothing store in East Berlin that was later featured in Documenta X in Kassel in 1997. Volksboutique has evolved from its original concept to become a production house that sponsors and organizes Hill's other projects, which she refers to as “organizational ventures” in preference to the more common tag of “performance art.” “Given that an increasing amount of the artistic content of these shows is organizational, this term will now effectively replace it,” she explains, referring to the recent trend in Europe. Volksboutique will be on view from May 18 through July 31, 2001, at the Kunstverein Wolfsburg in the form of a workshop that will produce the Volksboutique Reference Library, a twenty-volume catalogue reminiscent of Sears and Roebucks catalogues, and the Volksboutique Training Video, a manual resembling corporate training videos that aims to publicize the Volksboutique concept. “These are instrumental in explaining what it is that I do to my mother,” says Hill. The project then travels to the Migros Museum in Zurich, where the live workshop continues from February to April 2002. The final stop will be the Institute of Contemporary Art in Leipzig, where it will be shown May to July, 2002. A website (www.volksboutique.org) is scheduled to launch sometime in June.

Giovanni Garcia-Fenech

May 8, 2001

THE ALDRICH MUSEUM CONSORTS WITH CRIMINALS

The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut (www.aldrichart.org), is taking a walk on the wild side with “Art at the Edge of the Law,” an exhibition of work by artists who question—and in some cases break—the law. Organized by Aldrich assistant director Richard Klein and the museum's curator Jessica Hough, the show opens June 3 and runs through September 9, 2001. The museum, however, is not planning on becoming an accessory to any crime. Prior to opening the exhibition, the museum consulted Larry Russ, former chairman of the Connecticut Bar Association Committee on Arts and the Law, and held a slide presentation for Ridgefield police chief Richard Ligi to avoid any problems. “We wanted to make clear that we weren't looking to make headlines,” says Hough. “But that we believe challenging law is essential to democracy.” According to the curator, Ligi's only input for the exhibition was to request that Tom Sachs's mixed-media handmade guns be locked up after display hours.

Among the works in the show is BLO Nightly News,1994, a documentary of a project by the Barbie Liberation Organization, an early incarnation of online provocateurs Etoy, who, in 1993, purchased hundreds of Teen Talk Barbie dolls and Talking GI Joe action figures from toy stores and switched the voice boxes before returning them to the stores to wreak havoc with gender stereotypes. A different type of clash resulted from Dennis Oppenheim's sculpture Virus, 1991. Disney successfully sued the artist for his use of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck figures in the work. Oppenheim is not allowed to sell the work but is allowed to exhibit it. The show also includes works by Janine Antoni, Bureau of Inverse Technology, Tom Friedman, Gregory Green, Jeffrey Hatfield, Michael Hernandez de Luna, The Institute for Applied Autonomy, Janice Kerbel, Mark Lombardi, Bradley McCallum, Negativland, Michael Oatman, Richard Prince, Michael Thompson, Fred Tomaselli, and ubermorgen.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a mock trial overseen by Russ in which the audience will hear closing arguments in favor of and against the legality of the works presented in the exhibition. It is scheduled for Sunday, June 24, 2001.

Giovanni Garcia-Fenech

May 7, 2001

DAVID ELLIOTT TO LEAVE MODERNA MUSEET FOR MORI ART MUSEUM

After five years at the head of the Moderna Museet (www.modernamuseet.se) in Stockholm, David Elliott has announced that he will leave his current position this November to become the first director of the new Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, which is scheduled to open in 2003. Elliott presided over the opening of the Moderna Museet's new building in 1998 and organized, among other exhibitions, “After the Wall: Art and Culture in Post-Communist Europe” in 1999. “I am sorry to leave,” explains Elliott, a British citizen who is the first non-Japanese museum director to be appointed in that country. “I could not refuse the offer because I was really taken by the challenge of running an entirely new place.”

The Mori Art Museum is part of a large-scale development project in the Roppongi district of central Tokyo, and will be housed within the commercial, cultural, and residential complex. Funded by the developer Minoru Mori, the museum has yet to determine its legal status. For the time being, it has no permanent collection but promises to present international art, architecture, and design from the late twentieth century up to the present. Elliott has already begun to review proposals for contemporary artworks that will be installed throughout the complex, although he will not reveal the artists under consideration. “It's not about choosing names but works that will be site-specific to the development.”

Despite his new responsibilities, Elliott will continue to collaborate with the Moderna Museet, creating the possibility for more cultural exchanges between Europe and Asia in contemporary art. “I'm not severing links forever with Stockholm,” he insists. The upcoming exhibition “Out of Africa,” a survey of contemporary African art curated by Elliott and Simon Njami, will open at the Moderna Museet in 2003 before going on to Tokyo.

Jennifer Allen