Weekly Bulletin August 7


Writing On the Wall
A piece of performance art (or is it a prank?) has raised some uncomfortable questions for wealthy artists and also raised the profile of a New York artist.

Mat Benote, who says he considers himself a graffiti artist, hung his own art in the Guggenheim Museum, albeit briefly, last weekend, before he was spotted by a guard and immediately “de-accessioned.” Benote’s stunt and the resulting media fuss was entertaining, and more: He was issuing a challenge, he says, to better-known artists to donate their own art to public institutions. Why don’t more artists who can well afford to, like Jeff Koons, save public institutions’ money?

The work Benote accessioned to the Guggenheim New York.

The answer is complicated, of course. Collectors receive huge tax breaks for museum donations of art; artists receive material costs. So if hedge-funder Steve Cohen gives a Jasper Johns to the Modern, he gets a tax break of several million dollars; if Johns gives one he basically gets to write off “paint.” A bill has been in both the Congress and the Senate for some months that would amend the IRS code to let writers, musicians, and artists donate their work at fair market value, but is still far from becoming law. “Write your Congressman” is the cliché advice-better yet, “E-mail your artist.” The promises of gifts of top works might be enough to move this bill front-burner by year-end.

Meanwhile, a “Bravo” to Benote, who has apparently made a habit of these art gifts, at New York subway stations and several museums. He lauds Museum of Art and Design guards for being the most vigilant: “They’re quite on their game…very alert and always on the move.” But at another unnamed institution, when his piece fell, two guards tried to get it put back up, he says.

Benote creates detailed, faux wall labels that match the style and font of each receiving institution and also works that match its gestalt. A temporary installation for MoMA, for example, was merely a brick placed on the floor.  But it read, “This is a SpEcial Brick.”
East End Art

At 31, Alison Fox, is becoming a bit of a cult artist. Shown so far mostly in group shows at a circuit of fairly cerebral and influential galleries—Marc Selwyn in Los Angeles, Mitchell-Innes and Nash, ATM—For opened a solo show last month at East Hampton’s Fireplace Project, catty-corner to the Pollock-Krasner House.
Fox says the current show had a “casual attitude about it that was true to who I am as a person and as an artist.” In it, the painter experiments more than she has in the past with cloth: folding, patterning, how it takes color, for example. “I had no notion of how it would hang… it was open-ended,” she says. Recent influences and inspirations on her work have been totemicist Joe Bradley, Frank Stella and Dorethea Rockburne drawings, she adds. The final show is both vibrantly colorful and somewhat quiet.

Fox has both useful connections—husband is dealer Zach Feuer—and good reviews, plus star-spotter Phillips de Pury has auctioned her work. Barbara MacAdam wrote, in “The New Abstraction,” her “bright, dynamic canvases take their footprints in still life and landscape into a seductive and distinctive personal abstraction.”
To Fox, a surprising advantage in making her recent work was the birth of a baby nine months ago, she says, “My focus was better because of the constraints.” The concentration helped make the work “more lyrical.”

The show is up at the Fireplace Project through Aug. 18, but may be extended.

Olafur: Ready for Some Football
In one of the more unlikely developments in the contemporary art world this week, the Dallas Cowboys today announced plans to commission site-specific works by artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Mel Bochner and Matthew Ritchie for their new football stadium. Cowboys owners Gene and Jerry Jones promise the works will be “monumental” and will be installed in the areas with the highest pedestrian traffic. This is a serious initiative: an Art Council of curators and collectors advising on the project include Michael Auping, chief curator, the Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth; Charlie Wylie,curator of contemporary Art, the Dallas Museum of Art; and Texas-based collectors Howard Rachofsky and Gayle Stoffel.

When Doves Cry, Does Art Sell?
Tobias Meyer and Prince tribute band Purple Reign are the star attractions at the annual Art Crush at the Aspen Art Museum tonight (Friday Aug. 7.) The annual fete, this year saluting Fred Tomaselli, whose solo show is up at the institution through Oct. 11, is one of the more lush on the museum-gala circuit. Too late to attend? Not really. An after-party will go until 2 AM at a venue promisingly, or frighteningly, called “Belly UP Aspen.”