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    Sydney Biennale Chairman Resigns, Oakland Wants Lucas Museum, and More

    — Sydney Biennale Chairman Resigns: After scores of artists withdrew from the Sydney Biennale due to ties with sponsor Transfield Holdings, organizers have announced they will cut all ties with the company that serves as a contractor for the country’s immigration detention centers. That includes accepting the resignation of board chairman Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, who also serves as chairman of Transfield’s board. Belgiorno-Nettis’s father founded the Biennale and he has been chair for the past 14 years. “We have listened to the artists who are the heart of the Biennale and have decided to end our partnership with Transfield effective immediately,” organizers said in a statement. [The Guardian]

    — Oakland Wants George Lucas Museum: The city of Oakland is the next to offer real estate for George Lucas’s museum, after it was recently rejected from San Francisco’s Crissy Field. Oakland councilwoman-at-large Rebecca Kaplan has suggested the city’s Kaiser Convention Center as the perfect venue. “I am excited to inform you that your dream could be a reality in Oakland,” Kaplan wrote in a letter to Lucas. “Our city has sites that could meet your needs for space, style and location.” [SF Gate]

    — Art Ranks Low Among One Percent Collectibles: A new study by Knight Frank and WealthInsight has revealed art to be the worst performing collectible of 2013, making it less lucrative than cars, coins, and stamps. But despite the numbers, art remains the most popular category and is reportedly growing in popularity among 44 percent of people worth $30 million. [CNBC]

    — Nathansons to Sell: L.A. collectors and LACMA board members Jane and March Nathanson are selling three works by Richard DiebenkornRichard Serra, and Sam Francis in the May 14 sale at Sotheby’s. [LAT]

    — Denver Prioritizes Art: The city of Denver has unveiled an elaborate, citywide plan to increase both arts funding in the city and the amount of public art. [Denver Post]

    — High Wattage at Neon Museum: More than 60,000 people went to Las Vegas’s Neon Museum last year. [Review Journal]

    — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited L.A.’s Museum of Tolerance yesterday. [LAT]

    — Sculptor Elliott Arkin tried to sneak into this year’s all-women “Brucennial” by submitting work under Monica Gripman’s name. [TAN]

    — Italian artist Carla Accardi, known for co-founding Gruppo Forma, has passed away. [Artforum]

    ALSO ON ARTINFO

    Report: Armory Show Modern, Hidden Gems [VIDEO]

    This Is Not a Survey: An Incomplete Review of the Whitney Biennial

    SPRING/BREAK Holds Its Own With Armory Week Giants

    VIDEO: 60 Works in 60 Seconds from VOLTA NY

    See Highlights From the 2014 Armory Show

    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Luca Belgiorno-Nettis

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    Click HERE to see a video report from The Art Show. 

    Museum-quality works at an inviting, domestic scale abound at this year’s American Art Dealers’ Association Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, from a much-admired series of Ad Reinhardt black paintings at David Zwirner—six not-quite-monochromatic squares, the artist’s only known such works on paper—to a grouping of tabletop sculptures in metal by the late Anthony Caro at Mitchell-Innes & Nash and a small yellow Mark Rothko at Manny Silverman Gallery. A few booths succeed in canny juxtapositions, like Cheim & Read’s Louise Bourgeois/Gaston Lachaise mashup or Bortolami’s pairing of Daniel Buren and Richard Aldrich. But solo shows, this fair's bread and butter, are more satisfying. Although the Art Show has in the past seemed like a refuge from much of the flavor-of-the-moment fizz of the (actual) Armory Show across town, contemporary names like Dana Schutz (at Petzel) and Kehinde Wiley (at Sean Kelly) are gaining ground on the blue chips. And there are undersung gems to rediscover, too—below, my picks for standout presentations.

    Adler & Conkright Fine Art | Numbers and Letters

    In step with the Guggenheim’s current exhibition “Italian Futurism 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe,” Adler & Conkright has unveiled several very rare, wartime text-and-image drawings by Futurists Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, and Angelo Rognoni, including Rognoni's L'attesa del fante (Waiting Sentinel), 1917. These are in harmonious conversation with an assortment of abstract, rhythmic works from the 1910s through '30s by a grab-bag of non-Italian practitioners: Janos Teutsch, Germán Cueto, Fernand Léger, and Sonia Delaunay, whose large, chromatic canvas Rhythme coloré, 1946, claims pride of place behind the desk.

    Alexander Gray | Jack Whitten

    For the gallery's debut at the fair, Gray chose to feature the African American abstractionist Jack Whitten, whose 1970s works may have Richter-philes and fans of recent process-based contemporary acrylic painting (e.g., Michiel Ceulers) doing double takes. "He's really pushing the horizontal gesture pretty far here," says Gray, noting that Whitten will be the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, in the fall. The works here are led by the brick-and-umber-hued Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1974, which was included in Whitten's 1974 solo exhibition at the Whitney.

    Galerie Lelong | Petah Coyne

    A faux-botanical lattice in lacquered white, woven with branches and dotted with red and cream mums, gives way to a darker fantasy within the booth, with a matte black chandelier providing a perch for a stately yet foreboding peacock. Coyne's title, The Unconsoled, borrows from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel of the same name, which also leads its protagonist and its readers through the looking glass.

    James Reinish & Associates, Inc. | Modes of Modernism: Realism and Abstraction in 20th Century Art

    James Reinish's booth is a buffet for anyone hungry for delightful morsels by the big names of early 20th-century American art: Fairfield Porter, Alfred Henry Maurer, Marsden Hartley, Thomas Hart Benton. Chief among these works is a blazing square canvas by Georgia O'Keeffe, The Red Maple, Lake George, circa 1920. A bronze Elie Nadelman sculpture and drawing from the esteemed collection of Alice Kaplan anchors the front. Bauhaus-inflected India-ink drawings by Russian émigré Louis Lozowick look particularly fresh.

    Pavel Zoubok | Women Collagists
    Collage is in abundance at this fair, but nowhere does it receive a better treatment than in Zoubok's thematic booth, which proposes the medium as especially relevant to the fractured experience of 20th-century women. Here, a candy-colored Lynda Benglis drawing from 1979, stuck with feathers and thread, mingles with meticulous, dollhouse-like dioramas by Addie Herder and May Wilson’s humorous photomontaged “Ridiculous Portraits”—society paintings pasted with her own face and sight-gag extras like a lace-edged hankie shoved into her mouth.

    Peter Freeman, Inc. | James Castle

    The Idaho-based Castle, a self-taught outsider artist who died in 1977, left behind a trove of absorbing works made from materials within easy reach—discarded packaging, string, soot from burned twigs. Their subjects are obscure or entirely personal; one group of untitled, undated drawings centers on what seems to be a single woolen coat with four buttons, either worn by a figure viewed from behind or sketched alone, catalog-style. Presented en masse, the delicacy of these tiny books, drawings, and assemblages transcends their rube beginnings.

    PPOW | Martha Wilson

    A suite of never-before-exhibited 1970s-era works made in Halifax, Nova Scotia, reveals the roots of the performance artist’s paradoxically playful yet dead-serious investigations of the private and social self. Typewritten proposals and ephemera—including audience “comment cards” from what was presumably a live performance—now function as prescient works on paper, while a diaristic color chart and documents of the various identities (male, female, and not necessarily either) assumed by Wilson offers a provocative aperçu of a proto-Cindy Shermanesque figure, sure to be catnip for the many museum curators roving the aisles.

    Marian Goodman | Jeff Wall

    These smallish lightboxes dating from the late 1990s and early 2000s remind you that Wall, better known for his virtuosic, elaborately staged gatherings of people and props, is equally adept at documenting fleeting moments and discarded objects on the fly. He makes a crushed can of peas and sauce, its body rent and oozing on the asphalt, positively mortifying in its tragedy.

    Fair Report: The ADAA Tilts Toward the 21st Century
    Petah Coyne's "Untitled #1388 (The Unconsoled)," 2013-14 at the Galerlie Lelong

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    Sales were steady and aisles were crowded during the opening hours of Independent art fair’s VIP preview Thursday. Founded by gallerists Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook in 2010, Independent is now in its fifth year in the former Dia Art Foundation building in Chelsea and continues to be a manageably sized, light-filled alternative to the Armory Show’s fluorescent behemoth uptown. Instead of traditional booths for its more than 50 participants, the fair has an open floor plan, which, this year, has been designed by architects Andrew Feuerstein and Bret Quagliara so that every gallery’s space is based on a triangular shape.

    Independent, which bills itself as a more curatorially-driven fair, has found an alternative model that also seems to be quite lucrative. They recently announced that they would stage a second iteration of the fair during the week of the November auctions in New York. There are other changes, too. While entry to past editions of the fair has been free, they’ve introduced a $20 ticket price for the first time this year — a measure, fair organizers say, that will help keep production costs down for participants.

    “I think that we really approached it in a different manner in terms of how we give the galleries and we give the artists a voice first, and then we adapt to them,” said director Laura Mitterrand. “We have a lot of artists who are doing site-specific projects and they are much more involved in the organization and the result of Independent. I had meetings with artists throughout the past two months to show the space and then they responded to that because it’s such a beautiful building and has this history with art that really compels them to want to intervene in a particular way.”

    While artists tend to say they dislike attending art fairs, Mitterand believes they are not averse to Independent. “In terms of participating, but even visiting, it’s very often that I hear artists say that it’s the only fair they come to see. They don’t usually want to see fairs. It’s not their environment and they don’t feel comfortable in it, but we definitely have a lot of people coming. I think that the artists appreciate how it’s an environment that they can work with and be proud of.”

    At least one artist at the fair confirmed Mitterand’s claim. Julia Wachtel, who has a solo show of paintings at Elizabeth Dee’s booth, said Independent is “a little bit more palatable” than other fairs. “Just the structure of this fair is less commercially set up,” she said. “It’s more interactive in terms of the flow from one booth to another. I do think it is a fair that is more about the art and less about the commerce.”

    Wachtel, who recently joined Dee’s stable, makes large colorful paintings that juxtapose images taken from the news with cartoons. Thirty minutes into the fair, the smallest of three works on view had sold for $35,000.

    Sales were also swift at White Columns’s booth, where a majority of the works had sold within the first hour. All of Patrick Berran’s paintings had been snatched up and all of the ceramic works by Magdalena Suarez Fremkiss had also sold. A small vase with the face of a woman on the front and a bowl depicting a geisha both went for $1,500. Fremkiss, who has been selected to participate in the Hammer Museum’s “Made in LA” biennial this summer, currently has her first-ever solo gallery exhibition at White Columns. “I think she’s 84 although I can’t exactly confirm that,” said director and chief curator Matthew Higgs, who is a creative advisor to the fair. “A lot of the work is making explicit reference to various types of vernacular pottery and various forms of folk imagery and often integrating that with comic book imagery from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s.”

    Works by another octogenarian ceramicist, Alice Mackler, were on view at the booth of Lower East Side gallery Kerry Schuss. Schuss chose to do a solo presentation of seven of Mackler’s ceramic works from 2013 and 2014 (two of which had already sold) and several paintings from 1968. “You can see these female figures work their way through all of her work,” he said. Mackler, like Fremkiss, didn’t have a solo show until she was in her 80s.

    An emphasis on underrepresented artists definitely permeates the presentations at Independent, but in the case of Cologne’s Galerie Susanne Zander, artists weren’t so much underrepresented as totally unknown. “The theme of the booth is ‘Artists Unknown.’ We know nothing about our artists except for what we see in the body of the work that we show,” said gallery representative Monika Koencke.

    “We started with outsider art, but we are really interested in these borderline positions in art. Recently we’ve been more and more interested in what we call conceptual outsider, which is often connected to these archives.”

    These unknown works include pornographic drawings by William Crawford that were found in an abandoned house in Oakland, California, in the 1990s. Fairly explicit images of sexual encounters drawn in pencil, Crawford’s works were selling for €750 each. Also on display was a series of Polaroids depicting a man dressed in women’s clothing taken from a photo book titled “Martina Kubelk: Clothes — Lingerie.” In various guises, the photographer looks unabashedly into the camera. The set of 388 self-portraits had sold to a museum in Europe that Koencke chose not to name for about €500,000.

    Like most of the other exhibitors we spoke to, Koencke voiced that it was a pleasure to show at Independent. “This is our fourth year. The public is amazing. They always seem to be in the perfect mindset to understand our very conceptual booths. The openness with the booth architecture is really so much better than the booths at traditional art fairs. You see the light of day, which is amazing.”

    An Emphasis on Artists Pays Off at Chelsea's Independent Fair
    Ceramic sculptures by Alice Mackler, at Kerry Schuss, New York.

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    When you enter the front doors of the Moving Image art fair, located at the Waterfront New York Tunnel, a cavernous space about as far west in Manhattan as you can go before falling in the Hudson River, there are no booths in sight, and very little of the stuffy nonsense that pervades other fairs. As far as the eye can see there are only screens and images, color and light.

    Created in 2011, the fair’s existence is simple, even necessary. “If you walk around a major fair you’ll see there’s very little video,” Moving Image co-founder Edward Winkleman told ARTINFO in a conversation shortly after they opened their doors on the morning of March 6. “We thought video was too difficult to show in most of the major fairs, so we developed Moving Image to experiment with the model.”

    “It costs next to nothing to do this fair compared to the average fair,” Winkleman added. “Most [gallerists] say it’s the easiest fair they’ve ever done, and it’s all intentional.”

    The space has cleaned up nicely since its days as the infamous Tunnel nightclub, which closed down in 2001 as a result of then-mayor Rudy Giuliani’s quality-of-life campaign. The space is now a mini-mall catering to the rich, with luxury boutiques and a coffee shop, bearing no traces of its former life as a drug den for the bridge-and-tunnel crowd (unless you count Tessa Hughes-Freeland’s “Nymphomania” (1993), an important work of the Cinema of Transgression, which features a “sexualized satyr”).

    “We’re always looking for what we consider a snapshot,” Winkleman said, hesitating to chart a theme running through the works in the fair. Chosen by a curatorial advisory committee, an annual rotating list of independent and museum-affiliated curators, the video work exhibited is geographically diverse, with a combination of new and historical pieces.

    This amalgam of the past and the present is immediately apparent. Just a few steps away from a dog sculpture by Nam June Paik (widely considered one of the grandfathers of video art) is Leslie Thornton’s “Luna” (2013), a three-channel video that acts as a meditation on the cinematic image in the digital age. These works, and many more throughout the fair, engage in conversations through their visual language.

    Two works that stand out share a similar stillness and painterly composition. Helsinki-based artistLiisa Lounila’s “7BPM (7 beats per minute)” (2014) contains a single shot of a clearing in the woods of Chinle, Arizona, during a thunderstorm. The chirping of crickets and sudden flashes of lightening in the sky give the piece a hypnotic rhythm, the stillness creating an ominous and open-ended narrative — is this storm the prelude or the aftermath? On the other end of the fair, Patty Chang’s “Invocation for a Wandering Lake, Part 1” is a single shot of the oceanfront, where the artist cleans a dead sperm whale that has washed up ashore. Chang’s video is a big work (literally, projected on one of the biggest screens in the fair) that’s interested in big themes — the bloated whale representing, well, take your pick, and the cleansing signaling something new on the horizon. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the art world? 

    Moving Image Fair Offers Snapshot of Video Art, Past and Present
    Leslie Thornton's "Luna," 2013, a three-channel HD video.

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    If you’ve got the money, here's how to experience the world's top cities in a way that few others can possibly afford.

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    Robert Michael Poole
    Darryl Jingwen Wee
    Nicholas Forrest
    Michelle Tay
    Marcos Fernández
    Céline Piettre
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    Extravagant Expenditures - How To Spend Big in World Cities
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    Extravagant Expenditures - How To Spend Big in World Cities
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    Flickr/ Iain Browne
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    MADRID
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    1996 Pingus Ribera del Duero
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    A classic choice for those with the finance is to buy expensive wines, those pricey enough to reach auction or be kept behind a cage of gold bars. In Spain the production of such wine is so rare as to be unthinkable, but as a consumer of wines in the land, it would be unthinkable not to try any. And some which are not necessarily extravagant hold their own sense of luxury.

    1996 Pingus Ribera del Duero is one of few wines starred with 100 Parker points – and priced at 1,495 euros. The Pingus mystery arose when a shipment of 75 boxes sank off the Azores, which caused the few bottles that were found to raise significantly in value.

    Teso la Monja 2008 is another bottle not seen in supermarkets. With a price of 1,200 euros, this Toro D.O. wine is a treasure of the Eguren family vineyards.

    And a third option would be the 2004 Clos Erasmus. Another with 100 Parker points, it costs 1,395 euros and comes from the Priorat D.O. They may not be the most expensive items available, but all will provide a taste of luxury to the few who get to taste them. - Marcos Fernández

    Cover image courtesy Flickr/ Iain Browne

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    MILAN
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    Principe di Savoia Presidential Suite, Milan

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    If 15,000$ per night isn’t an issue for you, then the Principe di Savoia’s Presidential Suite offers the ultimate luxury when visiting Milan.

 Bathe in an Pompeian-inspired spa all by yourself and spend a few days in a 500-square-meter Emperor-style suite decorated with authentic 19th Century Venetian mirrors, Murano glass lamps and fine art objects all around. The hotel is located in Piazza della Repubblica, right next to Milan’s central train station, and is now part of the Dorchester Collection Group.


    The suite, which featured in Sofia Coppola’s movie “Somewhere”, is at the tenth floor of the hotel, with a terrace offering breathtaking views of the city, three bedrooms, astonishing marble floors, a dining room featuring French crystal, Limoges porcelain and exquisite silverware. Among the lucky people who have got the chance to lodge here are George Clooney, Woody Allen, Lenny Kravitz, and Queen Elizabeth II. – Sara Schifano

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    Courtesy Principe di Savoia
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    Principe di Savoia Presidential Suite, Milan

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    NEW YORK
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    Ty Warner Penthouse Suite
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    Since New York City can be an over-the-top experience, what better way is there to experience it than from the top?

    Imagine viewing all 360 degrees of the city — with landmarks like the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings to your left, or Central Park under your nose — without fighting the crowds, or having to leave your hotel room on the 52nd floor. The Ty Warner Penthouse Suite at the Four Seasons Hotel affords you such a luxury — if you can afford the $45,000 a night price tag. (That’s before tax, by the way.)

    At 4,300-square-feet, the Coptic-crossed shaped castle in the clouds is up to four times larger than many $1 million apartments in Manhattan, and comes with a bedroom accented by hand-stamped Venetian velvet, Thai silk with 22-carat gold threads and custom-designed furniture; a bathroom entirely clad in custom slabs of rare Chinese onyx and sinks carved from solid blocks of rock crystal; a spa room that calms your nerves with rich walnut, afrormosia and Mexican sycamore wood — not to mention semi-precious stones in the Zen waterfall. In a city that never sleeps, you can afford to pamper yourself with some culture in the library, which is lined with hundreds of art volumes housed in bookcases framed by an exquisite bronze leaf motif — an ambiance fittingly topped off with a whimsical gilded bronze chandelier and a Bosendorfer grand piano.

    More unique details abound elsewhere around the room, such as hand-hammered cast-bronze baseboards, 18th-century Japanese silk pillows, and soft calfskin leather walls, making the multi-sensory splurge worth every penny. 

    Already sound like a good deal? Wait — amenities are complimentary, including unlimited international telephone calls, an art concierge, a personal trainer, a 24-hour personal butler, and a chauffeured Rolls-Royce to take you to any Michelin-starred restaurant in the city you desire (don’t miss out on Masa, Per Se, Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park).

    Think of it as less a suite than a seven-year, $50 million labour of love and work of art, by its renowned architect and designer, I.M. Pei and Peter Marino respectively Michelle Tay

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    Four Seasons Hotel
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    Ty Warner Penthouse Suite
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    PARIS
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    Your  own private Versailles
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    Fancy a little privacy in the permanently crowded, highly prestigious Château de Versailles? Dream of gazing at your reflection in one of the Hall of Mirrors’ 357 looking glasses, its famous ancient hardwood floors creaking under your steps in a miraculously visitor-free palace? It’s a dream within reach — for a fee. The historic landmark site now offers exclusive tours with a private guide outside opening hours — that is every evening after 6.00 pm — on special request. For groups of 1 to 30, the tour costs 3,600 euros, with the price decreasing according to the size of the group, going up to 90.

     

    The program includes the best of Versailles: the Royal apartments — the king’s in the north and the queen’s in the south — connected byJules Hardouin-Mansart’s celebrated Hall of Mirrors, whose decor, painted and sculpted by Charles Le Brun, was restored in 2007. A private encounter taking in, among other highlights, the lavish gold decor of Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom or Louis XIV’s silver throne – Celine Piettre

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    Château de Versailles
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    Your own private Versailles
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    SEOUL
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    Paldang Dam helicopter tour
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    Hopping aboard one of private Korean airline Blue Airlines’ American-made Robinson R44 helicopters is one of the best options for residents and tourists who fancy seeing Seoul in a whole new light. The premium option, for those who want to splurge a bit, is the 1 million won, 30 minute tour of Korea’s spectacular Paldang Dam on the Han River near Seoul.

    The Paldang Dam tour gives guests the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Han River and the surrounding mountains. Starting at the Jamsil Heliport, the tour follows a course that passes the famous Cheonho Bridge, the Olympic Bridge, the Seoul Olympic Rowing Course at Misarim, Lotte World, and of course the Paldang Dam itself, before returning to Jamsil.

    Blue Airlines’ Robinson R44s are four-seat light helicopters with a bubble canopy that allows passengers to get an unobstructed view of their surroundings – the perfect mode of transport for inquisitive sightseers who like to travel in style ­­– Nic Forrest

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    Paldang Dam helicopter tour
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    SYDNEY
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    Sydney seaplane flight
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    For those who like to travel in style, hopping aboard a RedBalloon scenic seaplane flight to Jonah’s restaurant for lunch is the most indulgent and luxurious way of experiencing Sydney in all its glory.

    Beginning at Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour, you will be taken on a tour of Sydney’s spectacular coastline, taking in views of Manly, Freshwater, Curl Curl, Newport, and Palm Beach before landing near Barrenjoey Headland at Palm Beach where a boat will be waiting to whisk you to shore.

    Once on dry land a courtesy transfer will take you up the hill to the award winning five-star, chef's-hatted restaurant, Jonah’s, where you will experience three courses of exquisite innovative modern Australian cuisine while enjoying views of Whale Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

    After a leisurely lunch you will board your return flight to Sydney during which you will see further views of the Sydney coastline, culminating in a circuit of Sydney’s iconic Bridge and Opera House before landing back at Rose Bay – Nic Forrest

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    Courtesy RedBalloon
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    Sydney seaplane flight
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    TOKYO
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    Fujimaki Gekijo
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    For a country where nuanced variations on the customary toppings, soup stock ingredients, and noodle weight and thickness can be the cause of factional infighting among ramen aficionados, there’s little dispute over what this humble noodle dish essentially is — a down-home comfort food that’s often best enjoyed as a carb-heavy nightcap, before heading home after a hard night of bar-hopping and clubbing. No matter how refined and laborious the ramen production process may be, a bowl of these slurpalicious noodles almost always still leaves you with some change from a ¥1000  ($10) note.

    Not at Fujimaki Gekijo in Tokyo’s hipster central of Nakameguro, however. Owner Shoichi Fujimaki, who concocts his soup from more than 20 ingredients — including two types of chicken, pork, Jinhua ham, dried scallop, dried shrimp, sweet shrimp, swimmer crab, mussels, two types of clam, ginger, and lemongrass — charges a princely ¥10,000 ($100) for his “Five Flavor Blend Imperial Noodles”. You’ll have to reserve at least three days in advance, but the starched napkins and cool underground concrete bunker vibe (with a ping pong table in the basement that you can avail yourself of after the meal) all contribute to making this the ultimate in obsessive ramen connoisseurship in a city renowned for its incredibly exacting cuisine – Darryl Jingwen Wee

    Credit: 
    Courtesy Ameblo/ Ayamaru-360
    Caption: 
    Dining at Fujimaki Gekijo
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    Extravagant Expenditures - Traveling Like Few Can
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    ARTINFO photographers made the rounds this week, hitting up all the New York art fairs and capturing them on film. Here, we’ve gathered some of our best photos from the main Armory Show, Independent, SPRING/BREAK, Volta NY, and Moving Image. Click on the slideshow to see our photos from Armory Arts Week 2014.  

    Armory Arts Week in Pictures: Photos From the New York Fairs
    Art Fair Week 2014: In Pictures

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    Error Apparent: Brothers In Law on Mutual Mistake

    Our client Leon was a short Corsican art dealer with a huge ego and grand ambitions. He also had an interesting legal problem he wanted to discuss with us over a plate of his favorite mille-feuille at a neighborhood patisserie.

    A private collector named Wellington had recently sold him an expensive portrait, which both the seller and Leon believed was by the 19th-century painter François Gérard. We found this surprising, since we thought Leon dealt exclusively in contemporary art.

    “Did you have the painting authenticated by a Gérard expert before purchasing it?” we asked.

    Mais non!” said Leon. “What for? Although I didn’t know the artist, my wife, Josephine, and I saw the work and liked it, and I bought it on the spot.” Wellington gave him a bill of sale stating that the work was by Gérard, Leon wired funds, and that was that. Or so our client believed.

    A few months later, Leon continued, he and Josephine were looking to raise cash for an island vacation home on Elba. He showed the portrait to an auction house and two independent experts, all of whom declared it to be a clever fake. Outraged, Leon asked Wellington to unwind the sale and return his money (with interest), but Wellington flatly refused.

    Leon was incensed. “That English dog!” he railed. “Isn’t this a simple case of mutual mistake?” A master strategist, Leon had apparently done some legal research of his own.

    “Not so simple,” we replied. “In fact, the doctrine of mutual mistake is one of the most complex and confusing areas we encounter in our practice.”

    Mutual mistake occurs when both parties are in error about an underlying fundamental element in their contract. The classic example, brooded over by every first-year law student, is the 1887 Michigan case Sherwood v. Walker, in which the court allowed the seller of a cow that was thought to be barren—but which was actually pregnant—to rescind the sale, because both purchaser and seller were wrong in their assumptions regarding the cow.

    Unfortunately, Leon hadn’t bought a cow. Worse still, the fact that he hadn’t taken the precaution of authenticating the painting before buying it might well preclude him from successfully claiming mutual mistake.

    Impossible!” our client sputtered.

    Au contraire,” we said. We explained that a court might not view his predicament as a mutual mistake but rather as a case of “conscious ignorance”—meaning that Leon assumed the risk of the mistake by proceeding with the purchase even though, as he admitted, he didn’t know anything about Gérard’s work.

    Wood v. Boynton, the most famous case involving conscious ignorance, was decided in Wisconsin in 1885 and concerned Clarissa Wood, who had brought a stone to jeweler Samuel Boynton for sale. Both Boynton and Wood thought it might be topaz but were unsure; nonetheless Wood agreed to sell it for $1. When the stone later turned out to be a diamond worth $700, the court refused to rescind the sale on the basis of mutual mistake, reasoning that Wood knew, and assumed the risk, that the gem might have been worth more than the price paid.

    “Are there any more recent cases?” demanded Leon. “I don’t live in the 19th century, you know!”

    We told him about the 2013 District Court case ACA Galleries, Inc. v. Kinney. ACA’s president, Jeffrey Bergen, had purchased the Milton Avery painting Summer Table, Gloucester from collector Joseph Kinney after inspecting it at a New York storage facility. Shortly thereafter, the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation determined that the work was not by Avery.

    ACA sued Kinney in an attempt to rescind the sale, arguing that both parties had thought the painting was authentic, but the court held for Kinney, stating that in New York, mutual mistake “may not be invoked by a party to avoid the consequences of its own negligence”— particularly where “the party wishing to invoke the doctrine bears the risk of the mistake because he was aware of his limited knowledge but acted anyway.”

    Different courts have used the seemingly simple theory of mutual mistake to arrive at different outcomes. In contrast to the result reached in ACA Galleries, Inc. v. Kinney, two New York Supreme Court decisions—Uptown Gallery, Inc. v. Doniger in 1993 and Feigen & Co. v. Weil in 1992—allowed purchasers to rescind sales contracts on the grounds that the parties mistakenly assumed that an artwork was authentic.

    In the former, Uptown Gallery bought a painting from Marjorie Doniger that both the gallery and the seller believed was by Bernard Buffet. The work bore Buffet’s signature and was accompanied by an invoice with his name. When Uptown Gallery discovered the painting was a forgery, it demanded a refund, but Doniger refused, arguing that by purchasing the work, the gallery had assumed the risk of its being fake. Here the court held for the gallery, determining that there was “no reason why defendant should be entitled to a windfall based on its sale of a painting that was not what either party believed it to be.”

    Similarly, in Feigen & Co. v. Weil, art dealer Richard Feigen sold what he believed was a genuine Matisse drawing, Le vase d’opaline, signed “H. Matisse ’47,” to Tom Hammons in 1989. The sale was for $165,000, and Feigen passed along $100,000 to the drawing’s owner, Frank Weil. In 1990, when Hammons was ready to sell it, the Matisse estate declared the work a forgery. Feigen demanded that Weil return the money, but Weil refused. Citing the pregnant cow case, the court ruled for Feigen.

    “What happens if a work is believed to be authentic at the time of sale, but experts later change their opinion?” asked Leon. “Can a contract be rescinded for mutual mistake then?”

    The answer was no. Expert opinions may change, but that does not provide a legal basis to undo a sale.

    As a practical matter, when representing a buyer we sometimes try to address the thorny issue of what happens if an authentic work later becomes “de-authenticated” by including a provision in our purchase contracts. We ask for the right to rescind the purchase for a certain period of time, typically two years, if there is a change in expert opinion. Some auction houses put similar clauses in their consignment agreements (but without the time limit), giving them the right to rescind a sale if they believe the sale would subject them to liability for a breach of warranty of authenticity.

    The good news for Leon was that there were legal theories apart from mutual mistake that might support his case. For example, our client might have a valid fraud claim if Wellington had knowingly made a false representation with the intent to deceive. Or he might argue breach of warranty if Wellington’s representations did not have a reasonable basis in fact.

    Leon chewed this over as he finished his pastry, then shot us a devilish grin. “I might just have a ‘diamond’ I can sell to Wellington,” he said. “My philosophy is ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.’”

    This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Art + Auction. 

    Some facts have been altered for reasons of client confidentiality or, in some cases, created out of whole cloth. Nothing in this article is intended to provide specific legal advice. 

    Charles and Thomas Danziger

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    PHILADELPHIA — Raised in Nigeria and educated at Goldsmiths alongside fellow members of the Young British Artists generation, Yinka Shonibare is known for his examinations of colonial and postcolonial exchange using colorful textiles. He presents a healthy contrast to the classically minded Barnes Foundation, where his work is the subject of its second contemporary exhibition. Albert Barnes was an advocate of education for African-Americans and also an early champion of African art, which is significantly represented in his collection. At the same time, his is the kind of legacy ripe for criticism: an interest in education that focuses on the empirical and canonical and a collection of non-Western art made possible by the colonial practices Shonibare asks his viewers to revisit.

    Critique takes center stage in this show, at Philadelphia Museum of Art through April 21. Works include selections from the last two decades of Shonibare’s practice, as well as a series of sculptures commissioned by the foundation. The style throughout pokes gentle fun at the display of antiquities and historical paintings in museums like the Barnes, using figures clothed in Shonibare’s wonderfully eye-catching signature Dutch wax-printed textiles. The five photographs in “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” series reference Goya’s Los Caprichos in the subjects’ poses. In these grandiose works, the artist dramatically stages each colorfully suited figure, rendered in chiaroscuro. The Victorian Philanthropist’s Parlour installation, 1996–97, is a send-up of museum period rooms, with staid furniture and polite decor; however, its surfaces are covered in wallpaper and textiles in a pattern depicting black soccer players, bringing tensions between populism, nationalism, and race into play in a stage set–like space from which viewers are removed. Despite the dark edges of Shonibare’s critique, there’s an exuberance to these works that makes them inviting and aesthetically enjoyable.

    Still, the institution’s support of such political works feels altogether too neat. While we’re invited to consider Barnes’s participation in colonialism (for all his philanthropic interests in the arts and education, he was, after all, a very wealthy white man who spent a lot of time encouraging people to read works by other white men), the pieces commissioned for this show are a celebration of his legacy: Child-size figures with globes for heads climb up ladders made of texts Barnes once read. Though the exhibition advocates for progressive-minded education through a collection with stated pedagogical aims, one wonders if Barnes’s utopian ladder is the one we need to be climbing at this moment.

    A version of this article appears in the April 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine.  

    Review: Yinka Shonibare at Philadelphia Museum of Art
    Yinka Shonibare: Victorian Philanthropist’s Parlour, 1996–1997

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    Dealer Sues Calder Foundation, Police Name Banksy Thief, and More

    — Swiss Dealer Sues Calder Foundation: Swiss art dealer Patrick Cramer is suing the Calder Foundation for preventing the sale of “Eight Black Leaves” by claiming it is just a fragment of a work. Cramer attempted to sell the work, which was purchased by his father from Calder, at Christie’s last year but was unable to complete the sale when the foundation would not give him an inventory number. “Without an inventory number, ‘Eight Black Leaves’ is not marketable and a work produced by Calder cannot be catalogued or made available to the public for art education and research in accordance with the charitable and educational purpose of the foundation,” Cramer says in the lawsuit. [Courthouse News]

    — New Orleans Banksy Theft Suspect Named: Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of 30-year-old L.A. resident Christopher Sensabaugh for the attempted theft of Banksy’s “Umbrella Girl” mural in New Orleans. Last month, Sensabaugh was seen attempting to hammer the mural out of a cinderblock wall. He claimed to be an art handler acting on behalf of the Tate. [NBC]

    — Christie’s Delays Basquiat Auction: A suit filed by the Basquiat Estate has been successful in getting Christie’s to delay an online auction of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat that his sisters claim may not be authentic. “Our goal is to allow time for all parties involved to reach an equivalent level of confidence in the validity of these items, so that the sale may resume at a later date,” Christie’s posted on their website. Auction items owner Alexis Adler said in a statement that she was disheartened by the decision and that she “looks forward to bringing the Basquiat Estate to the same level of confidence that she and Christie’s share in the unassailable authenticity of these early and seminal works which she acquired from Jean-Michel.” [NYT]

    Monet Show Opens in Shanghai Mall: A Shanghai shopping mall is hosting China’s largest ever exhibition of Claude Monet paintings, which are on loan from the Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris. [AFP]

    — Women Museum Directors Earn Less: A new study by the Association of Art Museum Directors has found that women head a quarter of North America’s largest art museums and receive a third less pay than their male colleagues. [NYT]

    — Don’t Mess With David: Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini is threatening legal action against an American firearms company for creating an ad that depicts Michelangelo’s David holding a giant gun. [The Guardian]

    — Three-person artist collective BGL will rep Canada at the 2015 Venice Biennale. [Art Daily]

    — A new Stonehenge study says the Neolithic site might make music. [The Atlantic]

    — “Silence of the Lambs” director Jonathan Demme is selling off his extensive collection of Caribbean art. [NBC]

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    Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.

    Sandy Rower, head of the Calder Foundation.

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    Armory Focus: China — The Verdict

    As the Armory Show drew to a close on Sunday, visitors compared notes about the highs and lows of this year’s fair, and particularly about “Armory Focus: China,” the exhibition of contemporary Chinese work curated by Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing.

    BLOUIN ARTINFO invited a Hong Kong-based guest contributor, Alexandre Errera, to share some of his thoughts on this year’s Armory Focus. Errera is founder and CEO of artshare.com, a global online platform dedicated to the exhibition and sale of contemporary Chinese art, and a keen observer of the contemporary Chinese art scene.

    Expectations were high for “Armory Focus: China.” Two exhibitions — the Metropolitan Museum’s current “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China” and a show of 28 young Chinese artists put on by Don and Mera Rubell in Miami — have lately given the American public rare overviews of new Chinese art. But the Armory presentation was really the first market test. Seventeen galleries and 30 artists were shown in a section curated by Tinari, the influential director of UCCA. It was a great introduction, even if some visitors might have been left slightly frustrated.

    The selection of galleries, which included many that had never exhibited overseas, was particularly interesting. It was a bold move to bring these newcomers to New York, home to some of the most established dealers in the world, and overall it paid off. The group seemed thoughtfully selected, rather just a Who’s Who of the most important Chinese galleries, and there was a strong focus on conceptual artists born in the 1970s and ’80s — visitors who came looking for the usual suspects, like Zeng Fanzhi and the other auction stars, were knocking at the wrong door. “Focus: China” was about the post-Cultural Revolution artists, with just one real exception: Hong Kong-based gallery 10 Chancery Lane, which chose to focus on some of the first Chinese contemporary artists, such as Huang Rui and Wang Keping. This was actually an interesting decision, as it provided a historical context to the other artists exhibited throughout the section.

    The booths were small — too small, in fact, which might have been the exhibition’s biggest drawback. Chinese artists express themselves better in large formats, and galleries did not have much choice but to bring relatively small works. (Still, a few larger pieces were in evidence, like Xu Qu’s labyrinth painting at Tang Contemporary, Zhao Zhao’s sculpture at Chambers Fine Art, and Xu Zhen’s installation in the middle of the section.)

    In contrast to some other “young and hot” galleries elsewhere in the fair, which showed only one or two pieces to stir up interest in a very limited supply, the Chinese galleries mostly chose to exhibit a significant number of works. One inventive way of doing this was Platform China’s decision to divide its booth in two: a “permanent” section, and another rotating one, with artworks changing every day. 

    What proved somewhat frustrating was the fact that some of the best artists of the new generation were missing, and that the focus was most often on paintings, rather than installations or videos. Those who know what these artists are capable of were disappointed, but this is perhaps inevitable at a fair. One notable exception was an original installation by Hong Kong artist Nadim Abbas, shown at Gallery Exit.

    The question on everybody’s mind was simple — how did American collectors react to this section? For many of them, “Focus: China” was their first encounter with artists they had never heard of. One way of judging their reaction was in terms of sales, and overall these were said to be very good. Some galleries sold out quickly (perhaps with the help of a few pre-sold works), while others attracted more interest as the fair progressed. Nobody seemed to regret having made the costly trip. Some galleries actually priced their works lower than what they would have charged in China, reflecting the artists’ desire to get some American collectors behind them.

    The word that one heard most often from U.S. collectors was “surprise”: They did not expect the new generation of Chinese artists to be so different from the contemporary Chinese artists they see at auction. The exhibition was always crowded, which may a better indicator of the American reaction to these artists than actual sales — after all, the ultimate goal was to stir up their curiosity and interest.

    Although the art that was exhibited represented just a fraction of the current talent in China, the show may well have succeeded in making American collectors aware not just of these artists, but of the breadth of contemporary Chinese talent. A symposium of China-related talks by prominent speakers, sponsored by Adrian Cheng, was also important in this regard. The key question is whether the interest generated by “Focus: China” will fade or not. The answer will largely depend on how the galleries follow up on this initial effort, and on how other fairs frame young Chinese artists going forward. Art Basel Hong Kong, which starts on May 14, will be one to watch closely.

    Also: Read Alanna Martinez’s roundup of Armory Focus: China here.

    Armory Focus: China

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    An ultra-rare 1937 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster topped RM Auctions' Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance last Saturday, fetching $6.6 million with its seductive curves, blue-and-cream body, and siren-red leather seats.

    The company scored its best-ever results, it said in a statement, raking in a total of nearly $36 million over 97% of all lots sold, representing a 34% increase over 2013's sale results.

    The Delahaye, built by Figoni et Falaschi and offered as the jewel of Malcolm Pray's 16-vehicle collection and known as “Malcolm’s French Mistress”, was prized for being the only surviving example with its Géo Ham body tag. Additional top lots from the Pray Collection include the 1958 BMW 507 Series II Roadster, which also smashed records with its winning $2.4 million bid; a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Series Cabriolet, which sold for $1.8 million; and a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, originally owned by Hollywood actress Natalie Wood, which brought $1.8 million.

    “We could not be happier with the results of our 2014 Amelia Island sale,” says Gord Duff, car specialist at RM Auctions. “Despite the weather, our fantastic selection of cars and stylish presentation were showered with rave reviews from our international clientele.”

    Other top lots at Amelia Island include a 1934 Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Sedan by LeBaron that brought $1.57 million, and a 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra that sold for $990,000.

    Meanwhile, RM was particularly excited about selling an original 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta for $781,000, and a show-condition and rally-ready 1939 Aston Martin 15/98 Short Chassis Open Sports that fetched $616,000.

    To view some of the top lots at Amelia Island 2014, click on the slideshow.

    1937 Delahaye Fetches $6.6M at Amelia Island Auction
    1939 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster by Figoni et Falaschi

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    ACA Galleries (American Contemporary Artists) was founded in 1932 by Herman Baron. Stuart Davis (the pioneering modernist), Yasuo Kuniyoshi (the well-known Japanese-American artist) and Adolf Dehn were among the original founders.
     
    ACA first opened on Madison Avenue in New York City on August 16, 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression. At this time there were only thirty galleries in New York City and Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery and Alfred Stieglitz’s An American Place were the only other galleries dedicated to exhibiting American Art. Even museums cast a blind eye to American painters and sculptors. The art world at this time consisted of Old Master dealers and galleries showing the great artistic currents of Europe.
     
    The gallery's second exhibition, "Selections from the John Reed Club," set the tone and clearly defined the gallery's direction for the next thirty-eight years. Social Realism or art with a message found a home at ACA. The exhibitions featured at ACA helped to ease the seething discontent among American and emigrant artists at having no venue to deliver their message. Work by women, African-Americans, Jews, Chinese, Latin and Russian artists were shown on a regular basis. ACA was the people's gallery. Artists as diverse as Louise Nevelson, Charles White, Lee Krasner, Isamu Noguchi, Raphael and Moses Soyer, Alice Neel, Barnet Newman, David Smith, Stuart Davis, Rockwell Kent, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and hundreds of others often had their first public exhibition at ACA. To accommodate its expansion, the gallery was moved in 1933 to 8th Street, a block from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's studio club. Juliana Force, Ms. Whitney's director was a great supporter of the gallery.
     
    In the mid-1930's when life for the artists became intolerable ACA organized the earliest meetings of the American Artist's Congress. Cinderblocks and boards were laid out and hundreds of artists gathered at ACA to form a political platform and demand the right to work. These meetings were chaired by Stuart Davis and Rockwell Kent and were eventually moved to Carnegie Hall. This was the antecedent of what was to become the FAP (Federal Arts Project) and the WPA (Work Project Administration). These organizations gave artists and their families a minimum wage for plying their trade as muralists, sculptors and painters. As a result the cultural life of many cities across America was greatly enriched.
     
    In the late 1950's Herman Baron's nephew, Sidney Bergen, joined the gallery. Sidney applied modern accounting and marketing strategies to the growing company. Under his directorship a new vitality galvanized the company. A separate corporation was founded to examine and handle earlier American Art. Professional art historians and curators were hired, photographic archives were set up and the gallery made the transition to a modern business.
     
    Diverse exhibitions such as "Four American Primitives," featuring the work of Edward Hicks, John Kane, Horace Pippin and Grandma Moses as well as "The New York Society of Women Artists," a radical group founded in 1925, were organized. Shows devoted to great collections such as the Avnet collection were compiled.
     
    Throughout its history the gallery has been socially and philanthropically active by organizing benefits and raising money for numerous humanitarian, political and environmental causes.
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    NEW YORK — It was Peking Duck that first piqued artist Jay Batlle's interest in the culinary arts from a tender age. His first studio was his childhood kitchen in Phoenix where he lived with his father and learned how to make the iconic Chinese dish from celebrated chef Ken Hom. 

    But experimenting in the kitchen proved to be just the birth of the latent artistic streak in Batlle (pronounced "battle"), who soon started drawing, painting and sculpting as well — and couldn’t stop.

    Now, known as the epicurean painter, Syracuse, N.Y.-born Batlle is interested in exploring “the good life” — success, fortune, and an abundance of sensual pleasures — and the gulf that exists between this ideal and reality. The artist subverts the gourmet experience into social commentary, mostly on the interchangeability of wealth and power, and the blurring of boundaries between the two as it relates to indulgence and excess.

    He’s also done this with food performances, such as in “Parties of Six or More” at the Nyehaus in May 2012, where he showed drawings and a sculpture as he served 1,500 oysters — shucking most of those himself — and copious amounts of wine to the 250 visitors who came to his opening.

    At the opening of his current solo exhibition “Between Meals” at the Bleecker Street Arts Club on February 27, he performed his“Anti-Social Pasta Performance,” during which he served guests 37 lbs. of pasta (1 lb. of pasta for each year of his life) in an anchovy cream sauce from 6 to 8pm.

    “The idea was to give everyone bad breath,” he told Blouin Artinfo.

    The suspectedly-unsuspecting guests feasted on other art, such as a video Batlle took of himself pouring $5,000 worth of red wine — gifted to him from a good friend and collector of his work — down the sink. “It’s an homage to Chelsea and the recent flooding from Hurricane Sandy that destroyed a lot of art,” explained Batlle, who named the work “Apres Le Vernissage” and set it to Brahms’s Intermezzo opus 117 no. 1.

    Also showing at “Between Meals” are sculptures, including "No Beginner’s Luck" (2012), a cast resin and steel sculpture displayed in the rooftop garden, and a metal cast of the bone of the leg of ham that he previously sliced up for audiences in “Batlle Reserva Performance” at the Clages Gallery Cologne in 2011.

    Taking center stage, however, are his layered compositions, titled “Stationery Series,” where he blows up an iconic restaurant’s stationery or menu — examples include The French Laundry, Momofuku, Le Train Bleu and La Grenouille (at which Batlle admits to never having eaten) — then doodles or paints on them with watercolors, oil sticks, wine, coffee, and even squid ink.

    And in the spirit of a true epicurean adventure, Batlle revealed exclusively to us that behind each of those paintings resides a recipe, and buyers of the paintings will be, let’s just say, in for a treat.

    To see a slideshow of selected works at “Between Meals,” which runs till March 29 at the Bleecker Street Arts Club, click here.

    Between Meals with Jay Batlle
    Jay Batlle in his studio

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