A Russian oligarch has paid almost $400 million as part of an ambitious plan to create an art museum and commercial center on an island in the heart of St. Petersburg. Roman Abramovich is buying an array of crumbling buildings on St. Petersburg's New Holland island, a former military base, reports the Daily Telegraph. The self-made steel and investments magnate, whose fortune is estimated at around $12 billion, plans to convert the 18th-century warehouses into art galleries, housing, retail and hotel spaces, according to a spokesman. Abramovich, 45, is best known in the West as the owner as Chelsea F.C., the London-based soccer club that he has helped turn into a European powerhouse over the last decade with a slew of high-profile signings. But since taking up with his girlfriend, art-world darling Daria Zhukova, in 2007, he has also become a leading collector of contemporary art. On a 2008 trip to New York, he spent $68 million on Francis Bacon's "Triptych" and $27 million on a Lucien Freud painting. Those big-ticket purchases are fueling speculation that the planned new art gallery could be intended as a home for his collection.
Zhukova, the 29-year-old daughter of a Russian oil magnate, runs her own gallery in Moscow, and is a member of the board of trustees of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Last year, Abramovich bought an $85 million estate on the Caribbean island of St Barts. He also paid a reported $474 million for the world's biggest yacht, Eclipse. Naturally, it's said to have its own art gallery aboard.
Last Edit: Dec 8, 2010 15:36:30 GMT -8 by steveinca
I'd like to imagine Deitch is taking the heat for the museum board's decision to paint over the mural. Either way, with all the controversy surrounding the Smithsonian, it seems like a poor choice and bad timing.
Also, I thought it was rather irresponsible for Artinfo to reference Daniel Lahoda for their article.
Here is the article from Artinfo.
LOS ANGELES— Is street art too hot for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art? The genre is known for its feisty, topical energy — fire that Los Angeles MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, a longtime street-art evangelist, hoped to tap into with its much-anticipated upcoming "Art in the Streets" survey of graffiti greats. Now that show is likely to be stalked by controversy after the institution ordered the whitewashing of a mural by the well-known street artist Blu on the outside wall of the Geffen Contemporary building. The work had been commissioned as part of the run-up to the show's April 17 opening. Apparently, the erasure was an effort to avoid a political uproar. Instead, it seems likely to ignite one.
For his work on the museum's exterior wall, Blu created a massive panorama of coffins draped in one dollar bills — a provocative image considering that the wall faces an L.A. Veterans' Affairs Hospital, as well as the so-called Go For Broke monument, which honors Japanese-American soldiers who fought in the Pacific during World War II. The mural was whitewashed on Thursday, mere hours after the mural went up on Wednesday night. According to a statement issued by MOCA, "The museum's director explained to Blu that in this context, where MOCA is a guest among this historic Japanese American community, the work was inappropriate."
It's not clear whether the museum knew of the design in advance, or whether it actually received any complaints before erasing it. Los Angeles Downtown News contacted the veterans affairs center management, who said that they had not complained, while reps from the National Go For Broke Education Center said that while some members found the mural to be in poor taste, the organization had not voiced any objections to the museum.
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Footage of the erasure has quickly circulated on street art blogs and became a sensation. In L.A. MOCA's statement, the museum says it has "invited Blu to return to Los Angeles to paint another mural." The Bologna-based artist, known for giant cartoon images that often deal with violence, is often listed as one of the brightest lights of the worldwide graffiti art scene. He has painted murals for such prominent venues as the Tate Modern, where he was part of a high-profile 2008 show.
So, what does the artist think about all this? Apparently he was on the scene for the whitewashing. Street art advocate and curator Daniel Lahoda told Los Angeles Downtown News that the artist was unhappy with the development. Blu's personal blog, which features two posts dated the day after the take-down, strikes a comical, if cryptic, note. One post features a drawing of the museum as a giant coffee pot, with a punning line (in Italian) underneath: "Of course, the first time I heard 'MOCA' this is what I thought of." The second features a picture of the whitewashed Geffen Contemporary wall with a caption in English: "a really nice, big wall, in downtown L.A."
UPDATE: Blu has said he is not going to return to MOCA to make a second mural, and he has issued the following statement to Animal New York:
The following is Blu’s full email to Chalfant, which I am not linking to as various personal emails are listed:
Dear Henry thanks for your interest and sorry for the late reply
the situation is a bit complex, but i am used to it, sometimes I encounter problems because of the strong content of my pieces The only thing I can say is that I wasn’t expecting to be censored in “real-time” by MOCA
how do we came to this point? the story is short:
1. I was invited by Deitch to paint the museum wall
2. I proposed him to work on my piece early this month because it was the only time I could have come to LA before the opening of “art in the streets”, next April. I also asked to be payed for my work and to take an assistant from Italy to help me out.
3. Deitch said the time was ok and that the fee was approved, I have not received any requests regarding preliminar sketches, However I usually tend not to send sketches for approval, assuming that whoever invites me should know my work. [ goo.gl/qnsGO ] [ goo.gl/WD4JD ] [ goo.gl/0BQgi ] [ goo.gl/Fknwy ]
4. I flew to L.A. to paint the piece. In those days almost everyone, Deitch included, was in Miami for the art fair
5. I spent 6 days painting the piece. When Deitch came back from Miami I was still at the wall, drawing dollar bills.
6. He looked at the piece, and he found it offensive so he decided to erase it but he would let me finish it, at that point I had just finished sketching the dollar bills: the piece was already understandable but not completed. Knowing what was going to happen to my mural the following day, I didn’t feel motivated to spend more time on it. so i left the piece like that.
7. The day after Deitch invited me for dinner. We had a very gentle conversation in wich he asked me to paint another piece on the same wall, suggesting he would have preferred a piece that ‘invites people to come in the museum’.I told him that i will not to do that, for obvious reasons, and that probably I was not the artist best suited for this task.
8. the following day, early in the morning a L.A. blogger informed me that the piece was being erased by some workers. I went there to take some photos. Some people were already there documenting the event. The internet buzz was started before I realized the piece was being cancelled.
9. On Friday I was leaving LA, so I asked about the payment (i was there with an assistant, painting 10 hours a day for 6 days) and then things became unclear. Today I still don’t know if my work, after being erased, will be payed as agreed.
10. As soon as i got back home i found my inbox full of requests from journalists, asking for interviews I also received an email from Deitch, in which he asked me to ‘sign’ a press release, explaining the motivation of the cancellation in order to calm down the censorship accusation. I explained him that i will not sign that document because obviously I don’t agree with the cancellation of my piece. Signing it would have meant technically ‘self-censorship.’ He told me his motivations. I understood his interpretation of the piece but that was his personal choice.
Now just to be clear:
My piece was not done to offend anyone, neither MOCA, Deitch, or any war veteran. I was sincerely trying to do one of my best pieces and I would have been glad to spend a more days on that wall, touching up and finishing all the remaining details, to make it better. I often paint strong subjects but always leaving the interpretation open to the viewer and this may generate discussions. People’s reaction is the most interesting thing for me. To see this piece as ‘offensive’ was his personal interpretation, not the only possible interpretation, Deitch saw it like that and he took the decision to erase it, without having received any official complain from anyone. Now I am not angry with anyone, but this doesn’t mean i support the censorship of my piece and I don’t want to take part in that decision: doing that would deny the whole idea of my work.
I can also say that during my short experience painting that piece I talked to many people, including some war veterans, who understood the piece in a completely opposite way. With my big surprise they liked the mural, founding it truthful. This one, like many other different interpretations, appeared in several internet sites immediately after the cancellation. I found this debate really interesting.
That said, I have no problem justifying my work, but now there is no more mural to speak about, and my personal position is just to step back and watch the reactions.
one final note:
As i said i am not angry, but I like to call things with their right name. Now some people (mostly people related with L.A.MOCA or Jeffrey Deitch) claim this is not censorship but a “curatorial choice”.
The wikipedia definition of this word reads: “Censorship is suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body”
this sounds familiar to me
that’s all thank you
Last Edit: Dec 17, 2010 15:14:19 GMT -8 by sleepboy
By now the much-talked-about “mural incident” between MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch and Italian street artist Blu has a lot of people seeing red. “Censorship,” some cry, referring to Deitch’s removal of Blu’s antiwar mural on the north wall of the Geffen. Others say it’s sensitivity, not censorship, as Deitch was concerned that the mural -- which pictured coffins covered in dollar bills -- would be offensive to some in the neighborhood, as there’s a Veterans Affairs hospital and a war memorial to Japanese soldiers in close proximity to the museum.
But despite all the polarized assertions, one question has lingered. Did Blu get paid for the mural that MOCA commissioned -- and if so, how much?
In an e-mail to Culture Monster on Friday, Deitch clarified the situation.
The agreed-upon fee was “10,000 euros,” Deitch said. That translates to about $13,100. [Update: an earlier version of this story miscalculated the dollars to $7,582.]
“I would not normally disclose this, but since Blu brought up the fee, it is best to be transparent,” Deitch wrote.
Deitch was referring to an e-mail exchange between Blu and graffiti photographer Henry Chalfant that was posted Friday on the New York art blog hyperallergic.com. In the e-mail, Blu wrote that he hadn’t yet been paid for the now-whitewashed mural. Deitch said that’s not true.
"The wire transfer payment was sent to Blu yesterday, immediately after I received his invoice and wire instructions,” Deitch said. “His fee was paid by me personally, not by the museum. There was never any question as to whether or not Blu would be paid his agreed-upon fee."
Despite their differences, Deitch said he remains “a strong supporter of [Blu’s] work.”
"NEW YORK, NY (AP).- Police are looking for the person who tunneled through a wall into a New York City apartment while the owner was away around Thanksgiving and made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of artworks..."
“All of a sudden it was like the new gold rush,” says Steve Lazarides, chief gallerist, collector and entrepreneur of the new urban art scene. “You could go out, buy a Banksy print at 250 quid. The next day you could sell it for two and a half grand. What other investment is going to make 10 times your money overnight?
“And then the next owner, if they were lucky, could sell it on again for five grand ... so it was a no-brainer in those days of easy credit.
“We’d open a show and you’d have people running at you. You’d be trying to sell something to a client and you’d have someone tapping you on the shoulder ... saying ‘No, no, I want to buy it’. There was one instance where we caught someone flipping a work in the gallery before they’d even paid for it.”
And another passage from the piece which sounds mighty intriguing..
"Lazarides most audacious move yet will see him take on the might of Art Basel Miami Beach in December, with his biggest US show yet, revolving around a venue with a capacity in excess of 90,000. He hopes to challenge the self-declared “most important art show in the United States” with a range of crossover events incorporating both music and film, working with Live Nation, the entertainment group, and the Tribeca Film Festival."