"SpongeBob" Artist Accused of Bewildering Art Gallery Attack, Alec Baldwin Wins an Art Duel in the Hamptons, and More Must-Read Art News

"SpongeBob" Artist Accused of Bewildering Art Gallery Attack, Alec Baldwin Wins an Art Duel in the Hamptons, and More Must-Read Art News
The former lead artist for "Spongebob Squarepants" is being sued by gallery owner Margaret Howell for $5.5 million.
(Courtesy quicheisinsane via Flickr)

"SpongeBob" Artist Attacks Gallery?: In a tale as bewildering as it is disturbing, gallery owner Margaret Howell is suing Todd White, the former lead artist on "SpongeBob Squarepants" and the official artist of the 2007 Grammy Awards, for $5.5 million, claiming he hired thugs to attack and rob her and then took over her art gallery at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. According to the claim, White hired at least four martial arts experts to forcibly shut down the gallery and imprison Howell, "the very woman who helped him launch a career," while they stole more than $1 million worth of art as well as her confidential customer list. The next day, the claim says, White faxed a letter purporting to be Ms. Howell to the Hyatt, stating that she would be vacating the premises and handing the space over to White. Strange — this sounds far more like the plot of a mob movie than an episode of "SpongeBob Squarepants." [Courthouse News

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Art Duel in the Hamptons: The heat was on at East Hampton's Guild Hall recently when Alec Baldwin came head to head against Goldman Sachs global credit head Donald Mullen over a Clifford Rosspainting at a charity auction. Baldwin, perhaps feeling the need toshow steel for his future mayoral campaign, ultimately beat theinvestment bank titan — and generous High Line art patron — winning the Ross for $70,000. [Bloomberg]   

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Matthew Barney is Back: In his upcoming show at Gladstone Gallery,Barney will exhibit his "first major works produced from traditionalsculptural and industrial metals." Traditional sculpture! Where has allthe weirdness gone? Our IN THE AIR blog assesses. [ITA

The Dog Days of Rembrandt: So how did L.A. police recover that stolen Rembrandt drawing so fast? After taking the artwork from the Marina del Rey Ritz-Carlton,the thief (or thieves) saw the light and broke into the Myra EpiscopalChurch in Encino, leaving the work in the priest's office. "Detectivesbelieve the thieves panicked over the attention the case has receivedand decided to dump the Rembrandt," according to the L.A. Times. Thelesson here, of course, is not to steal a minor artwork by a big-nameartist in August, when the news drought will cause it to become aninternational story. [LAT]   

The Hazards of Keeping Art Safe: "There's little that can ultimately prevent someone from vandalizing a painting if they really want to," said Bill Anderson, co-founder of National Gallery of Art security provider Art Guard, in the wake of this week's Matisse attack. "The sad paradox is that to really protect it, you need plexiglass. But if you put it under glass and behind ropes, you might as well just show it in a catalogue." [WaPo]

"Did Shepard Fairey Deserve to Get Beat Up by Danish Anarchists?": That's the probing, analytical question being asked these days by the Miami New Times, in the wake of the street artist's beatdown in Denmark. [Miami New Times]  

A New "It Girl": The creative director of Dasha Zhukova's forthcoming magazine, Garage, is quickly becoming fashion's new darling. Following an adoring article in Australian Vogue and a spot on Vanity Fair's best-dressed list, Shala Monroque earns an equally fawning profile in New York Magazine. The "street-style icon and fashion demi-celebrity" is the muse of Muccia Prada and the girlfriend of Larry Gagosian (whom she calls "a great mentor" and "one of the most stylish people I know"). The 32-year-old St. Lucia native was introduced to fashion and art by her mother, who ran a gift shop at a hotel and would bring Monroque the copies of Vogue she didn't sell. Kind of makes it hard to hate her. [NYMag]

Ikon Gallery Names New Director: Debbie Kermode, former Ikon curator, has accepted a position as the Birmingham, England gallery's new deputy director. Ikon also recently named Tyler Cann as curator. [Observer]

The Belvedere Fires Attendant for Urine Offense: Alfred Zoppelt was recently fired from Austria's Belvedere castle and museum after 23 years of service for washing his hands and face with urine in the workplace. Zoppelt is allegedly a follower of urine therapy, a belief that urine has medical and cosmetic benefits. He claims his nontraditional urine-related practice has before now "never been a problem." [AP]

Price of Bronze Hard On Sculptors: In the past 10 years the per-pound price of copper has risen from $1.20 to $5, forcing some sculptors to seek alternative materials like polyester resin. But while resin may be good for the wallet, it's not always good for aesthetics. Wildlife sculptor Kitty Cantrell has a clay turkey model from 2008 still sitting in her studio, waiting to be cast in bronze once the economy improves. According to the report, "The turkey's long, slender legs are too likely to break if not done in metal." [WSJ]

Affordable Art Fair Announces 2012 L.A. version: New York's 12-year-old Affordable Art Fair will debut an L.A. enumeration next year. The fair will continue to sell contemporary original works priced between $100 and $10,000. [AAF]

Conflict of Interest: Paddy Johnson calls out Abigail R. Esman for praising her own company Art Collector's Club as well as new site COMPANY in a recent article for Forbes Magazine, but leaving out other, more major players in the industry. According to Johnson, Esman failed to properly disclose her role as chief editorial director of online e-commerce site Art Collector's Club in the story. In response, the blogger requested that Forbes take down the story and issue a public apology. [Art Fag City]

Ai's Hard Words for a Former Ally: Watch a video of Ai Weiwei confronting his friend Zhao Liang, a once-crusading documentary filmmaker in China, and accusing him of being "harmonized" after the director reached an accommodation with the government to regain political favor, evidenced here by his withdrawal from a 2009 film festival in Melbourne. [NYT]

Matchmaker, Matchmaker: IN THE AIR plays matchmaker with the art journalists on the New York Observer's media bachelors and bachelorettes lists. Too bad only one eligible male art scribe made the cut. New York Times critic Ken Johnson must be in high demand. [ITA]