LACMA's Rock Becomes a Parade Balloon, Madonna Questions "The Birth of Venus," and More Must-Read Art News

LACMA's Rock Becomes a Parade Balloon, Madonna Questions "The Birth of Venus," and More Must-Read Art News
A rendering of Mungo Thomson's parade float, modeled after Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass"
(Courtesy the Artist)

– Levitated Helium Mass: L.A.-based artist Mungo Thomson will one-up Michael Heizer on July 4th, when his balloon design for the Aspen Art Museum's (AAM) official float — a half-sized replica of the famous LACMA rock filled with helium — glides down Main Street in the Colorado resort town. After its appearance in the parade, the lighter-than-air Land Art parody will remain tethered outside the AAM for the rest of the summer. [LAT]

– Madonna Takes Italian Art Tour: The venerable pop star took some time out from flashing and mooning audiences to take a two-hour private tour of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence over the weekend with her boyfriend and 11-year-old son. According to museum chief Christina Acidini, who was somehow roped into speaking on the record, Madge was "particularly taken by Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' and spent several minutes in front of the work asking questions." She was apparently fascinated in the pagan and sacred mythology embedded in Renaissance opus. [Radar Online]

– Sotheby's Chairman Leaves for Book Deal: Later this year James Stourton, the chairman of Sotheby's UK, will leave his post to begin writing the official biography of Kenneth Clark, the former director of London's National Gallery who died in 1983. Harper Collins expects to publish the tome in 2016; an earlier Clark biography project by Oxford professor Fram Dinshaw commissioned in the 1990s never came to fruition. [TAN]

– Marina Abramovic Sells SoHo Home: The artist is no longer present — at least in her SoHo loft. Marina Abramovic has sold her spacious apartment at 70 Grand Street for $3.2 million. The space had been on the market for some time, but the performance artist managed to make a decent profit: She bought the apartment in the late 1990s for $1.5 million. [Real Deal]

– Venezuela Agitates for Return of Earthwork From Berlin: Venezuelan officials have demanded that Germany return a massive red sandstone rock that has been a centerpiece of a Berlin sculpture park since it was installed there by German artist Wolfgang von Schwarzenfeld in 1997. The artist claims the 35-ton stone was given to him by the director of Venezuela's Canaima National Park, but members of the local Pemón people claim that the rock is their tribe's petrified grandmother. [Guardian]

– Arts Donations on the Rise: Donations to the arts in the United States rose about 4.1 percent in 2011, to $13.1 billion, according to a new report. Arts and culture organizations received 4 percent of all U.S. charitable donations last year. According to one philanthropy researcher, "mega-gifts are returning." [Bloomberg]  

– Nude Model Sues the City: A nude model for notorious public body painter Andy Golub is countersuing the city after police arrested her for dropping her drawers in Times Square as part of a performance last summer. The model, Zoe West, claims her civil rights were violated. [NYP]

– New Infrared Technology Reveals Fragile Art's Layers: There's a hot new infrared scanning technology in the art conservation world. It's called Thermal Quasi-Reflectography, and it's really cool — literally. When projecting low-intensity infrared light onto paintings to reveal their concealed layers, the technique projects much less heat onto the precious artworks than comparable methods. [BBC ]

– Yinka Shonibare Ballerina Goes the Royal Opera: Beginning this week a large sculpture of a ballerina dressed in Yinka Shonibare's distinctive Dutch colonial fabrics and encased in a giant glass bulb will pirouette whenever there is a ballet or opera performance at the Royal Opera House. The commissioned work, which is being installed on a corner of the building so that the figure's body is parallel to the ground, will dance in place for at least five years. [Guardian]

– RIP Barton Lidice Benes, Sculptor Who Took on the AIDS Crisis: The artist, who died last month at 69 of complications from AIDS, was known for creating controversial sculptures and installations out of everyday materials of the epidemic — pills and capsules, intravenous tubes, HIV-infected blood, and even cremated human remains. The North Dakota Museum of Art now plans to build a replica of his apartment, furnished as Benes left it. [NYT]


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