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Christo’s Gates, Chris Burden Quits UCLA, Costco Sells Picasso

By Arts & Culture, Uncategorized

By Robyn Coffey

Costco’s website sells Picasso original

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Last month, an original crayon drawing by Pablo Picasso became the most expensive item ever sold on Costco.com. Drawn on the inside of a book jacket in 1971, the doodle appears to be the face of a fuzzy headed man with a quizzical expression. It sold for $39,999. It is the second Picasso drawing sold to the website by Orlando, Florida, art dealer Jim Tutwiler. The first went for $35,000, a steal according to Tutwiler, who has been selling art through the Costco site for the last ten years, because the wholesaler’s markup is a mere one-tenth that of traditional art galleries.

A search for “artwork” on Costco.com turns up limited-edition lithographs by Marc Chagall and Amadeus Modigliani, among others, ranging from $600 to $8,000. But if a buyer were to change his mind, embarrassed perhaps that his beautiful artwork came from a big box retail giant, there’s always Costco’s risk free 100% satisfaction guarantee: “Costco.com guarantees your satisfaction on every product we sell by offering a full refund … and our products may be returned to any of our Costco warehouses worldwide.” That goes for furniture, cameras, and caskets, as well as masterpieces.

Performance art shocker Chris Burden quits UCLA over gun incident

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Chris Burden has resigned his position as head of UCLA’s New Genres department, ironically due in part to a graduate student’s performance piece that involved a handgun. Burden was known in the seventies for his controversial pieces designed to blur the line between the audience and his potentially life-threatening performances. His best-known piece, “Shoot,” took place in a Santa Ana gallery in 1971 when his friend stood fifteen feet away from him and shot him in the shoulder with a rifle.

Burden and his wife Nancy Rubins, who is an instructor in UCLA’s sculpture department, handed in their retirement paperwork soon after the incident late last November. Apparently a 25-year-old graduate student walked into a class and loaded what appeared to be a bullet into either a real handgun or a convincing facsimile, spun the cylinder Russian roulette-style, held it to his head, and pulled the trigger. The gun didn’t fire and the student left the room, at which point witnesses heard a shot. The performer returned unarmed to the roomful of uneasy students and class was dismissed.

Police are investigating whether or not the gun was real, and the student remains in class while university officials determine if rules were violated forbidding the possession of weapons and firearms on campus. UCLA’s assistant vice chancellor Lawrence Lokman told ArtForum that the performance “raised a number of important issues and concerns for faculty, staff, and students with regard to artistic freedom, safety, and the boundaries of performance art within an academic setting.”

While students who attended meetings to discuss the incident mainly voiced concerns about how their freedom of expression might become limited, Sarah Watson, a gallery director who spoke on Burden’s behalf, explained that Burden felt UCLA officials responded too little too late. He has criticized the ill-considered danger of his own early work and felt the student should have been punished immediately. Watson acknowledged that the incident, combined with budget cuts and administrative issues at the school, played a role in Burden’s and Rubin’s decision to retire.

An undergraduate student who was in Deutch’s class reported that “there is overwhelming solidarity of the class” in support of Deutch Bloggers and had a variety of reactions. “Attempting suicide in front of your unprepared classmates is misanthropic and careless. To let it pass with an ‘oh anything goes, it’s art!’ attitude would be similarly disingenuous. I respect Chris Burden for taking a stand on this.” “To condemn this kid is hypocritcal because according to the ‘art’ discourse he was ‘going beyond’ what has gone before–he was ‘pushing the limits’ of acceptibility (this is to say nothing about the traditional argument that you can gauge the quality of an artwork by how much thought and discussion it provokes–and look at how much the UCLA student’s work has provoked right here!”

“If the student had performed the exact same piece outside the context of the school, if he had shouldered the risk, both artistic and personal, by himself, it would would be quite different. We could argue all night whether the piece sucked or had merit–I would tend toward the former, I guess–but at least it would exist as art. Within the context of school, it meant nothing.”

One person on the blog posted a link to a Quicktime video of another of Deutch’s works @ SaintLouisDesign.com , a large-scale image made from flowers he’d stolen from a local church and dried on his floor, arranged on the wall in the shape of a upside-down pentagram and a red horse rearing in front of it bearing a devil-like creature holding a flaming skull.

Holy Christo! A project in NYC?
…more info on Christo and Jeanne Claude

Beginning February 13, weather permitting, visitors to New York City’s Central Park will be lucky enough to witness the artists Christo and Jeanne Claude’s first-ever project in their hometown. Scheduled to be on view for a mere sixteen days, the Gates project consists of 7,500 sixteen-foot tall gates, with widths that vary according to the 23 miles of pathways along which they are spaced. Seven-foot lengths of synthetic saffron colored fabric will hang from the gates’ top bars and billow in the wind, creating the effect of a long orangey-yellow flowing river.

The project has been 26 years in the making. The husband-and-wife team, most famous for wrapping buildings in huge pieces of material, first petitioned the city of New York for permission for the Gates in 1979, and, despite protest, have been trying ever since. At first, park commissioners complained about the thousands of holes that would have to be dug in the park, so the Christos designed freestanding structures made from recyclable materials. Permission finally came when public arts-friendly Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor and gave the artists the go-ahead.

Neither the city nor the park administration will bear any of the cost of the project. In fact, none of the Christos’ work has ever been funded by grants, donations, or commissions. The $20 million budget will come from the sale of the collages and drawings that Christo spends 17 hours a day creating. The sketchbook-sized hand-drawn images of the finished sites will go for about $30,000 apiece, while the wall-sized drawings, at about five by eight feet, will bring in as much as $600,000 each. At their website one can view the images, states, “there are no official opening events. There are no invitations. There are no tickets. This work of art is free for all to enjoy, the same as all our previous projects. If anyone tries to sell you a ticket, do not buy it. This would be an act of fraud because no tickets are needed. Central Park is public space, open and free to all people.”

The artists have donated all merchandising rights to the Nurture New York’s Nature foundation and the Central Park Conservatory. They estimate that their project will provide employment for over six hundred New Yorkers, and after the sixteen days are through, all materials used to construct the Gates will be recycled.

Illustrations by Padraig Johnston

March 2005

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