Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hey Taxi

In case you didn't know New York's iconic taxicab will be 100 years old in 2007. To mark this centenary, the Design Trust for Public Space has launched Taxi 07, a program of public events and publications to improve cab design and the entire taxi system.
The Taxi 07 Master Plan, to be published April 2007 in partnership with the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), will outline the next decade of improvement priorities for New York cabs.

Make your opinions heard by taking our 20-question survey at http://www.taxi07.org -- every respondent also has a chance to win exclusive tickets to the Design Trust's gala cocktail event and benefit art auction at Rafael Viñoly Architects.

The survey is up for two weeks only, until September 30th, 2006. Shape the future of the New York City taxicab; take the Taxi 07 survey at http://www.taxi07.org.
New Yorkers (and anyone who has taken a cab) should get to know this great project and definitely do the survey. The Design Trust does great work and will certainly listen. My first suggestion would be give these cabbies some map training and provide rides home to Brooklyn once and while without the grimace!

Art Fund Chatter

Hyper busy these last days but I thought this was a mildy educational piece over at the Art Newspaper -- HLB

From Editorial & Commentary:
The implications of art fund collections shown in museums

By Adrian Ellis | Posted 14 September 2006

Art funds are investment vehicles, the return on which is linked to a portfolio of works of art acquired—as opposed to the stocks, bonds, property and commodities that are the usual components of investment funds. The return to the investor is determined, on the one hand, by the buoyancy of the art market or, more specifically, the bit of it in which the fund is investing (for example, contemporary, Asian or decorative arts) and, on the other hand, by the shrewdness of the decisions made by the funds’ managers with respect to specific acquisitions. The more buoyant the art market, the less shrewd the fund managers need to be to beat other financial instruments with which they are competing for investors’ attention and money.

Art funds are a relatively new phenomenon, spawned by the financial markets’ constant search for new gizmos and by the booming art market, particularly the contemporary art market. About 12 funds have been created in the past three years, playing off the contrast between the surging art market and the flat stock market. Those that have stayed the course include The Fine Art Fund and The China Fund.

Some have missions that seek to combine the power of the market with broader aims—in the case of the Artist Pension Fund, for example, the aim is to create a stream of income for artists in their retirement by cross subsidising less successful artists from the proceeds of more successful ones. Others, such as the Ellipse Foundation and the Wonderful Fund (see p6) have a for-profit framework but a rhetoric that combines commercial and non-commercial intentions in a way that is difficult to decode and disentangle.

Given the thin, lightly regulated and opaque nature of the art market compared with, say, the market for pork bellies or oil futures, art funds are usually aimed at the more speculative and affluent investor, who can afford to take a hit if and when the market implodes. To date, and notwithstanding the hoopla with which they have been launched, and the disproportionate coverage they get in the frothier parts of the financial press, they have not been notably successful either at attracting investors or at generating the sort of returns that appeal to a hard-nosed homo economicus.

One of the more noisily launched, Boston–based Fernwood Investments’ art fund—the subject, no less, of a Harvard Business School case study on alternative investment strategies—folded in 2005, less than two years after its launch; and others have been trailed but failed to launch, unable to attract funds sufficient to generate a diversified investment portfolio.

Notwithstanding their financial marginality, art funds raise interesting dilemmas when their holdings are shown in public museums. Whether or not the collector intends it, when works of art are lent to a museum, their value is usually enhanced. The collector can then realise that value through resale of the work with the beefed-up provenance and price that its stint in the public domain accrues.

The failed Fernwood fund explicitly embraced the technique in its description of its proposed investment strategy. Bruce Taub, the fund’s founder, told BusinessWeek in 2005 that the fund planned to lend pieces to museums or important exhibitions. That way, he said, “the value of the art will be enhanced through exposure”.

There is, of course, nothing new in museums borrowing from and displaying the works of private collectors. The development of art museums’ collections throughout the world can only be understood in the context of the relationship between private collectors and their complex motives on the one hand and museum administrators’ desire to harness those motives for the pubic good on the other. Directors, administrators and curators are acutely aware of the symbiotic relationship between public access to works of art that may not otherwise be seen, studied or enjoyed, and the private interest of the collector—sometimes wholly venal, sometimes wholly altruistic, and usually a deeply conflicted mix of the two.

The considerations that apply to art funds per se are exactly the same as those applying to any other private entity lending to a public museum, whether it is UBS loaning works to MoMA and Tate Modern or the Duke of Northumberland loaning the Madonna of the Pinks to the National Gallery. The Museums Association in the United Kingdom and the Association of Art Museum Directors in America have broad guidelines on the balancing of public and private interest, and the need for transparency, and accountability in circumstances where there is the possibility of private gain. They represent a pragmatic response to the reality that the public sector is and will remain critically dependent upon the private sector and indeed that the route to donations of work is usually through loans in the first instance. And that few public museums today have acquisitions budgets that allow them to neglect this vital source of new work.

Although the relationship between art funds and public museums is in principle no different from that between other collectors or dealers and museums, museums need to approach possible loans with particular vigilance and particular sensitivity to existing guidelines. While collectors have notoriously complex motives and psychologies, art funds do not: they are there to maximise the rate of return on their holdings, subject to the rule of law. (There is not yet a specific code of ethics for this class of investment vehicles.) This suggests they will take a fairly “instrumental” view of public museums’ potential contribution to asset appreciation and, unless they can attract more investors and demonstrate solid returns over the longer term, a fairly desperate one.

The writer is a regular columnist for The Art Newspaper and a director

of AEA Consulting (www.aeaconsulting.com)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


So I'm still finding myself somewhat washed out today. Distracted, thinking back still and wondering where "this" is all heading. Watching the lights last night with a friend of mine we couldn't help but wonder aloud and slander basically everyone in leadership - friend or foe - for being such incompetent, selfish and hateful men. So I thought I would link to this excellent commentary by Keith Olbermann. Also John Schaefer of NPR had an interesting program yesterday regarding the state of the arts and the response to disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Here's the discussion at Soundcheck. This is obviously a music slant but it applies to the visual arts.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Grand Opening :ChelseaMart

If you are in NYC you know that tonight is the deluge . Chelsea is open and ready for business! 4500 artists are currently "supported" by galleries in that special commerce zone we know and love. I read that we have 117 openings this week to choose from. For the willing, I'll let ArtCal do the guiding - check out the buffet. Bring comfortable shoes and leave your discerning taste at home.

image: Kent Parker, 2003

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Adventures with Form in Space

I saw this interesting show posted over at Gravestmor. To quote:

“Adventures with Form in Space”is the theme of this year’s Balnaves Sculpture Project at the AGNSW. And it is a particularly good year.

Hot on the heels of NASA’s announcement that Dark Matter exists, comes Nike
Savvas’s accurately title installation “Atomic: full of love, full of wonder”. It is an amazing room of freeze framed atoms that apart from some maverick dad letting his daughter play and tug at the sculpture, leaves the assembled viewers quietly agog. Suspended polystyrene balls held in place on nylon wire fill the room in a rough grid, running though the spectrum from reds to blues up the room with a few rogue orange balls escaping their hue, bubbling up into the cooler tones.

This work touches on what Steven Larose has been sorting through with his new works on paper series. Also this post on the "end" of string theory, by Bill Gusky comes to mind as it references a new concept, "braids". Bill links to this article: You are made of space-time. The braid theory, or rather "Loop Quantum Gravity", is in its early stages but may be able to merge general relativity and quantum mechanics into a single consistent theory. As Bill wonders - will this change our view of ourselves? How will it manifest in the art we make? I wonder if it will further underscore the growing divide between political will and scientific discovery? Perhaps a growing role for artists is to fill that gap in some way.