Las Vegas Art Museum to Close

The Las Vegas Art Museum is shutting down on February 28, 2009. “We’ve tried everything to keep this afloat. It’s just a challenging time,” said Patrick Duffy, president of the museum’s board. “The economic climate has eliminated several of our donations or reduced them significantly.”

The museum got its start in 1950 as the Las Vegas Art League. In 1974 it changed its name to the Las Vegas art Museum. It moved to its current location at the Sahara West Library/Fine Art Museum building in 1997.

Past exhibits include last year’s 702 Series: Stephen Hendee, Be My Suicide, which posed the philosphical question: “When nothing compels us more than to loose everything we care for, whose suicide is it?”

In 2006, there was a show of Kaz Oshiro: Paintings and Works on Paper, 1999-2006. According to the museum’s web site, “Oshiro’s distinctive, three-dimensional paintings appear to be sculptural replicas of conspicuously banal, mass-produced objects. Working in series, Oshiro has produced various brand-name electronic amplifiers, stereo speakers, car bumpers, kitchen cabinets, fast-food trash receptacles, washers and dryers, mini refrigerators, microwave ovens, and, most recently, Toyota truck tailgates.”

And in 2007, the museum devoted its gallery space to a Belgian artist for the show Cindy Wright Paintings: 2004-06. “Cindy Wright’s large, highly detailed paintings of raw meat, close-ups of human skin and figurative portraits display a heightened realism, the juxtaposition of which adds a level of complexity to the works as a whole,” said Dr. Libby Lumpkin, the museum’s Executive Director, who resigned in December when the museum board announced budget cuts.

Anybody want to hazard a guess as to why donations are down? Maybe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) can throw a little pork around the galleries, amidst the Toyota truck tailgates and human skin while pondering the existential complexities of suicide and loss. Perhaps that will keep the place open a little longer. Better yet, Dr. Lumpkin and her fellow sophisticates can go mingle with hoi-polloi in the lobby of the Bellagio Las Vegas, enjoying the 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers hanging from the ceiling, by sculptor Dale Chihuly.

See Also:
Las Vegas Art Museum Closing [ArtInfo; February 23, 2009]

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A.R. Rahman: The Mozart of Madras

If you haven’t heard of composer A.R. Rahman before, it may be because you are a fan of Hollywood but not Bollywood. Mr. Rahman has sold more than 100 million records, and with the success of Slumdog Millionaire, his music is now becoming familiar to Western audiences. Born in Madras (now Chennai) India in 1966, Mr. Rahman, a convert to Sufi Islam, continues to live and work there.

Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack

Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack

His score for Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for two Academy Awards. He also has two nominations for Best Song from the same movie, “O Saya” and “Jai Ho” (which means “be victorious”). Only two Indians have ever won an Oscar. In 1983, Bhanu Athaiya won for best costume design for Gandhi, and Satyajit Ray, the director of The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, The World of Apu) received a lifetime achievement award in 1992.

Slumdog Millionaire has already been a big winner in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). The award for best music went to A.R. Rahman for the original score of Slumdog Millionaire, beating out the competition from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat), Dark Knight (Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard), Mamma Mia! (Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus), and Wall•E (Thomas Newman). The BAFTA was presented to Mr. Rahman by Kylie Minogue, the Australian pop singer/songwriter who is collaborating with him on his next project, a film called Blue.

See Also:
Talking Shop: AR Rahman [BBC News; February 17, 2009]
‘Slumdog’ Composer Rahman, ‘Mozart of Madras,’ Vies for Oscars [Bloomberg.com; February 22, 2009]
‘Slumdog’ Fusionist in Oscar Spotlight [NY Times; February 20, 2009]

Armani Arts Institute

The glitterati must have thrown away the memo from the doom-and-gloom leader of the Free World, President Barack Obama, advising them of the global economic crisis. They showed up Tuesday night for the opening of Giorgio Armani’s new 43,000 square-foot flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The celebration was a scaled back affair. (Maybe Mr. Armani did get the memo.) No caviar was served at this party. The guests endured filet mignon and roasted chicken. No one has come forward to reveal whether any of the victuals actually touched the lips of aspiring fashion designer Victoria Beckham, who showed up coatless in a mini-dress.

Of course Posh Spice’s husband David Beckham was also there. So was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Alicia Keys, Ricky Martin, Mira Sorvino, Liam Neeson, Josh Hartnett, Leonardo DiCaprio, John Mayer and Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford.

In conjunction with the opening of the store, Mr. Armani announced a new initiative called the Armani Arts Institute. The famous Italian designer has donated $1 million through this initiative to fund the arts in New York public schools. The money will be channeled through the Fund for Public Schools. Caroline Kennedy, who attended this event, is the fund’s vice chair.

See Also:
Victoria Beckham, Leonardo DiCaprio among celebs at Armani Fashion Week party [Miami Herald; February 18, 2009]
Beckham, Mayer, DiCaprio celebrate Giorgio Armani [AP; February 18, 2009]
Giorgio Armani gives $1M for arts in NYC schools [AP; February 17, 2009]

Israel Recognizes the Righteous: Wilm Hosenfeld

The 2002 film The Pianist was nominated for seven Academy Awards and earned three, the Oscar for Best Direct (Roman Polanski), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Adrien Brody) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood). The movie tells the true story of the survival of pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew, beginning with the onset of World War II.

One of the people who came to the aid of Mr. Szpilman was a Nazi officer, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld. Mr. Szpilman had written to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, and also in his diaries that “in November 1944 Hosenfeld helped him find a hiding place and that he provided blankets, food and moral support.”

On Monday, February 16, 2009, Yad Vashem posthumously honored Mr. Hosenfeld as Righteous Among Nations, a recognition bestowed on men and women who helped the Jews during the Holocaust.

Mr. Hosenfeld’s diaries revealed “his growing disgust with the regime’s oppression of Poles, the persecution of Polish clergy, abuse of the Jews and, with the beginning of the ‘Final Solution,’ his horror at the extermination of the Jewish people,” according to Yad Vashem.

The Soviet Union arrested Mr. Hosenfeld at the end of the war. His sentence of life in prison was commuted to 25 years. He died in a Soviet prison in 1952.

See Also:
German Officer Made Famous in ‘The Pianist’ Named as Righteous [Bloomberg.com; February 16, 2009]
Nazi officer who saved Jews honored [International Herald Tribune; February 16, 2009]
German officer of ‘Pianist’ fame honoured in Israel [AFP; February 16, 2009]

Obama, Churchill, the Mau Maus and Artless Diplomacy

Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein

Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein

A bronze bust of Sir Winston Churchill, created by American-born artist Sir Jacob Epstein in 1946, was loaned to the White House in 2001 by the Tony Blair administration as a symbol of the enduring special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. President George W. Bush kept the sculpture on display in the Oval Office throughout his term.

In a speech before the the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in November, 2008, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

“Winston Churchill described the joint inheritance of Britain and America as not just a shared history but a shared belief in the great principles of freedom, and the rights of Man, of what Barack Obama described in his election night speech as the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.”

But maybe those were “words, just words” to the capacious ears of President Barack Obama. The White House curators removed the Churchill bust, put it in storage and replaced it with a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Although the British government had not asked for the return of the sculpture, they now have it back.

There is speculation that instead of admiring Sir Winston Churchill, the current US President actually holds him in disdain. It was Prime Minister Churchill who sent in troops to crush the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in 1952. Among those who were detained and allegedly tortured was Barack Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama.

The Mau Maus were an African Nationalist group active in the 1950s, whose purpose was to remove British rule and European settlers from Kenya. The Mau Maus were terrorists, using violence and murder against non-military and non-government civilians. On December 12, 1963, Kenya became an independent nation. Amnesty was granted to the Mau Maus four days later.

See Also:
Sir Jacob Epstein
Timeline: Mau Mau Rebellion
Barack Obama sends bust of Winston Churchill on its way back to Britain [Telegraph.co.uk; February 14, 2009]
Churchill bust casts shadow over special relationship with the US [Times Online; January 31, 2009]
Barack Obama’s grandfather ‘tortured by the British’ during Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion [Mail Online; December 3, 2008]

Plunder Under the Hammer

Fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent died in June 2008. Now his companion, Pierre Berge, has put up for auction a substantial number of works from the famed designer’s art collection. The money raised by the sale will go to fund HIV-AIDs research. Included among the pieces at auction are two bronze animal heads, a rabbit and a rat, believed to have been plundered from a fountian at Yuanmingyuan, the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing, by French or British soldiers in October 1860.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu demanded the return of the objects. But Christie’s auction house maintains that there is clear legal title to “each and every item” in the Berge Collection. A spokesman for Christie’s said the company “supports repatriation of cultural relics to their home country and aids in the process where possible by sourcing and bringing works of art to the auction platform to give buyers a chance to bid for them…. We strictly adhere to any and all local and international laws with respect to cultural property and national patrimony of art.”

See Also:
China Urges Return of Saint Laurent Sale Bronzes [Bloomberg.com; February 12, 2009]
Row looms over Qing treasures sale [ShanghaiDaily.com; January 25, 2009]
Chinese fury at Yves Saint-Laurent art sale [Telegraph.co.uk; November 4, 2008]

It Is What It Is: Talking About Iraq

The New Museum in New York is host to a show running from February 11 through March 22, 2009, entitled “It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq.” British artist Jeremy Deller developed the collaborative project, which is meant to encourage discussion about the present circumstances in Iraq, while maintaining politically neutrality. A revolving cast of veterans, journalists, scholars, and Iraqi nationals have been invited to take up residence in the New Museum’s gallery space to converse with the public about their areas of expertise and experiences. The only object in the exhibit is the remnant of a car that was destroyed in March of 2007 in a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Al-Mutanabbi Street, the site of cafés and bookstores. Thirty people perished in the explosion.

The artist will take a three-week road trip, traveling from New York to Los Angeles in an RV with a writer and two Iraq experts, taking the conversation to all parts of the country along the way. The show will arrive at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on April 17, 2009,remaining there until May 31. In October it will move to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.