Marx Reborn as Army of Gnomes, FEMA Forsakes Flooded Museum, and More

Marx Reborn as Army of Gnomes, FEMA Forsakes Flooded Museum, and More
Karl Marx gnomes by artist Ottmar Hörl
(Courtesy of Pierre Wolfer via Flickr)


– Artist's Gnomic Marx Memorial: To mark the 195th birthday of Karl Marx, the artist Ottmar Hörl has filled the west German town of Trier, where the anti-capitalist thinker and philosopher was born, with 500 three-foot-tall plastic gnomes cast in his likeness, each tinted a different shade of red. Hörl is an old hand at politically charged gnome art: He caused an uproar in 2009 when he created a similar public installation with pint-sized figurines giving the Nazi salute in Nuremberg. As for the Trier project, "I want to inspire pedestrians to think about Karl Marx in a different way," he explained. [Spiegel]


– FEMA Denies Art Museum Aid: In 2008 the University of Iowa Art Museum incurred some $4-million worth of damage from flooding, but according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that astronomical sum did not amount to half of the cost of replacing the building, which is its metric for accepting applications for federal funding on building replacement projects. In March FEMA denied the University of Iowa's third and final appeal to seek federal funding for a new Art Museum. Part of the reason for needing a new building, University officials say, is because its $500-million art collection cannot be insured with the museum at its current location. [Iowa City Press Citizen]

– Tyrannosaurus Bones Back to Mongolia: Today officials from the Department of Homeland Security will return the bones of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar to representatives from Mongolia after they were apprehended from a smuggler in Florida who had planned to auction them for $1 million last year. "There’s an increasing awareness in the public and the art world that there’s a real cost-paying consequence to this kind of theft and black market sales," said United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John T. Morton. "No one benefits when people loot dinosaur bones or engage in grave robbing or defacing temples. We need to take real steps to preserve these treasures around the world so that when you get to Angkor Wat, Angkor Wat is still there." [NYT]

– 9/11 Museum Won't Be Free: Officials at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum have opted to charge visitors a flat rate for entry into the museum rather than a suggested donation, Metropolitan Museum-style, with the price expected to fall somewhere between $20 and $25. Entry to the memorial site will remain free, with a $2 service charge for online reservations. "It’s ridiculous," said former FDNY deputy chief Jim Riches. "We asked for a memorial and they’ve turned this into a P.T. Barnum production. These people are trying to make money off the worst day in American history." [NYDN]

– European Art History's First Native Americans Found: What appears to be the earliest known depiction of Native Americans in European Art has been spotted in a Pinturicchio fresco in the Vatican by an art restorer. The fresco dates from 1494, just two years after Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the New World. The Native Americans are depicted as nude, dancing figures surrounded by horses and a lush green landscape. [Guardian]

– Jeff Koons Tinkers With Art History, Buys a Plate: For his upcoming pair of shows opening this week at David Zwirner and GagosianJeff Koons is putting the finishing touches on a new series of large-scale sculptures referencing art historical titans from Titian's "Venus and Adonis" to Picasso's "The Kiss" — which he owns. Another of the art star and collector's recent acquisitions is a comparatively affordable $80 tray featuring the image of Roy Lichtenstein's "Blue Grapes," which he snapped up at Barney's New York's sale of Lichtenstein-branded home goods benefiting the Art Production Fund. [NYMagTAN]

– Brambilla Brings the Stars to Church: After months of negotiations, video artist Marco Brambilla secured the use of Little Italy's St. Patrick's Old Church for Friday's premiere of his new kaleidoscopic video collage, "Creation (Megaplex)," which was accompanied by a 70-person choir. Attendees at the pew-packing screening included actor Alexander Skarsgard and performance artist Marina Abramovic, who offered this rhapsodic take: "The fact that we are in a church absorbed in a 3-D world anchors the sense of ritual where the past and the present merge and give us a sense of togetherness in the vast universe." [WSJ]

– Estate Battle Goes on After Zao Wou-Ki's DeathFrançoise Marquet, the widow of the Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-Ki, remains in a legal dispute with Jia Ling Zhao, a son from an earlier marriage. The feud over control of the artist's estate that began even before he died last month at age 92 following a battle with Alzheimer's. At the time of his death, the artist was said to be sitting on a collection of paintings that could fetch as much as €500 million in the market. Marquet, a former curator at Paris's Museum of Modern Art, has used 400 works from his collection to establish a foundation in Switzerland. [FT]

– Nazi-Looted Old Master Heads to AuctionGerrit van Honthorst's "The Duet," which was recently returned to the heirs of Jewish art collector Bruno Spiro by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is headed to the auction block at Christie's June 5 Old Master paintings sale in London with an estimate of $2 million. "It is a beautiful composition," said Christie's Old Masters specialist Nicholas Hall. "It is by a major artist at the peak of his career. It is in pristine condition and coming from the collections of Count Alexander Stroganov [art advisor to Catherine the Great] and then the Hermitage, it has a superb provenance." [Independent]

– Taschen Takes Big Risk on Big Books: While much of the publishing world embraces apps and tablets, Benedikt Taschen is hedging his bets with big, elaborate, and expensive artist books printed in very limited editions. The latest such volume is the 130-pound, four-foot-tall, $9,000 book "Genesis," which chronicles the journeys of Brazilian photographer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Sebastião Salgado from Siberia to Ethiopia. A special leather-bound edition of the book comes with a signed print and a custom-designed stand by architect Tadao Ando. (For budget buyers there is also a $70 edition of the book.) "So many books are disposable from the start, not designed to become significant objects," Taschen said. "You have to spend a lot of care and love and money too, but numbers only go so far." [WSJ]


 Sebastião Salgado on his $9,000 book "Genesis," from Taschen


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