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Leaked Smithsonian Letter Shows Administrative Conflict Over Censorship

As the Smithsonian censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video continues to make waves, it’s important to remember that the decision was made not by National Portrait Gallery staff, but by the absentee Smithsonian secretary. A leaked memo drafted by Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan and published by Artinfo demonstrates the internal conflict over the controversial decision.

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Steve Martin, Stella, Fairey & Serrano on Colbert Report

I can’t remember the last time so many bold faced art names were on mainstream television. Last night, Stephen Colbert tried to convince well-known art collector Steve Martin to buy his René Magritte-like portrait but it wasn’t an easy sell. Colbert soon marched on some major artists to make it more enticing. As he said, Stella declared it art, Fairey recontextualized it, Serrano added controversy, and Colbert even added Martin’s image but still no sale. The segment is a funny and clever way to introduce some artists to a mass audience that may not be familiar with their work. For that, Colbert gets an A++. Click thru to watch the segment.

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Rosa Parks as Performance Artist?

Rob Maguire, who is the founder and editor of Art Threat, a Canadian blog devoted to exploring political art and showcasing artists whose work inspires social change, hurled out this nugget during a recent online “water cooler” hosted by The National Post newspaper about art and ethics:

… artists may break the law to draw attention to such injustice and oppression. Sure, it’ll make some people uncomfortable, especially those people in power whose authority is being challenged, as well as those unfairly privileged by the current set of rules. But artists play an important role in pushing society forward, and progress can be messy. Pardon the crude analogy, but if Rosa Parks were a performance artist, would she not still be a hero?

Read the whole post here.

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Quote from Shirin Neshat at TEDWomen

In the West, culture is at risk of being a form of entertainment — exiled Iranian artist Shirin Neshat #TEDWomenless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Part of me thinks this has already happened. I asked An Xiao for a context for this quote at the TEDWomen conference and she provided the following:

Neshat spoke today about her experience as an artist exiled from Iran. She explained that art and culture are a form of resistance, and that she envied Western artists for not having to think about resistance in their work. The only challenge, though, is that art here in the West can quickly become entertainment instead.

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Julian Assange Is a 21st Century Marat

An Australian internet activist named Julian Assange (bio) exposes top secret American diplomacy on an international website.

He’s profiled last June in The New Yorker by Raffi Khatchadourian, photographed by Phillip Toledano, has a warrant issued for rape in Sweden, he’s denial bailed in the UK, and the right-wing American politicians (which is almost all of them, nowadays) want him to be tried for treason.

Yes, this must be the 21st Century.

Why am I reminded of Jacques-Louis David’s “The Death of Marat” (1793)? Probably because there is a faction in the world today who is trying to martyr Assange as a prophet of the new flesh, though so far they’re losing.

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Thoughts on the 2010 Turner Prize

The 2010 Turner Prize was announced last night, and Susan Philipsz was named the winner (against betting company William Hill’s unlikely odds of 16/5). Her piece, “Lowlands Away” (2010), has been much ballyhooed as the first sound installation to win the award for UK artists under the age of 50. The piece, a critic favorite before the announcement, is an easily digestible recording of the artist singing a traditional Scottish folk song. It was originally installed along various river-adjacent alleyways in Glasgow, re-contextualizing the spaces with the lament of a man whose lover had drowned.

Philipsz’s work is considerably less politicized than that of her fellow nominees …

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(Dark) Lord Norman Foster Builds New Apple Empire

The great dynastic rulers of history have always called upon the best architects of their time to design their monuments and capital cities. iMagnate Steve Jobs is no different: Apple will work with British starchitect Norman Foster to design the company’s new campus in Cupertino, California, rumored to be named “Apple City.”