The Duck Has Landed

The Rubber Ducks floats into LA [Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times]

The Rubber Duck floats into LA [Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times]

After touring the world’s waterways for the past seven years, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck has finally arrived in California, pulling into the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday. There it sits alongside battleships and other vessels, anchored to a barge and illuminated until 11pm each night, as part of the Tall Ships Festival LA. Although the oversized bathtub toy has previously visited Pittsburgh and Norfolk, VA, this marks its West Coast debut.

Originally created by Hofman in 2007, various versions of the sculpture ranging from 16 – 59 feet high (LA’s tops them all at 61 feet!) have graced the ports of Australia, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, and elsewhere as a kind of goodwill art ambassador. According to the artist’s website, “the Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate people and doesn’t have a political connotation.”

Despite the Duck’s unifying lack of meaning or purpose, it has had its fair share of controversy. In 2009, when it was stationed in the Belgian city of Hasselt, locals stabbed it 42 times. Last summer its Hong Kong visit coincided with the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, inspiring a mashup of the iconic “Tank Man” image with a row of feel-good rubber ducks. Chinese sensors promptly added “big yellow duck” to their list of banned words on social media platform Weibo, alongside “June 4” and “Tiananmen Square.” Earlier in its Hong Kong stay, the Duck proved so popular that Chinese knock-offs popped up online and unscrupulous realtors began placing unauthorized replicas in front of their properties. Even Mother Nature unleashed her wrath on the inoffensive inflatable, deflating the Duck twice – in Hong Kong it was blamed on a storm, while eagles were the likely culprits in Taiwan. Earlier this summer while stationed in China, heavy flooding swept the 1-ton floater down the Nanming River, never to be seen again.

Barring similar acts of God, the Duck will be on view through Sunday. Tickets are $15-$19.

Micro-Museum, Potters, and Revolutionary Artist win Made in L.A. 2014 Mohn Awards

Los Angeles Museum of Art at the Hammer Museum [via]

Los Angeles Museum of Art at the Hammer Museum [via]

The votes are in and the recipients of the Made in L.A. 2014 Mohn Awards have been announced! Three awards were presented in conjunction with the Hammer Museum’s L.A. biennial, all funded by philanthropists and collectors Jarl and Pamela Mohn: the $100,000 Mohn Award chosen by a jury; the $25,000 Career Achievement Award, also picked by a jury; and the $25,000 Public Recognition Award chosen solely by votes from the public. This year there were 6,604 votes, more than tripling the amount cast in 2012.

The big prize was awarded to Alice Könitz and her Los Angeles Museum of Art, described as “a micro-gallery and art installation” by the Los Angeles Times. The size of a large closet, it had lived outside of the artist’s Eagle Rock studio before being brought to the museum. Könitz exhibits the work of other artists through this experimental venue, which “represents a significant trend among artists in Los Angeles and beyond that bucks an increasingly market-driven art world in favor of collaborative, critically engaged work,” according to the press release. LAMOA was just one of a number of collectives or collaborative projects featured in the biennial this year, alongside KChung, Public Fiction and James Kidd Studio.


Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Michael Frimkess, Throwing Standing-Up Teapot c. 1972, Glazed stoneware. 8 x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Joshua White. [via]
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Michael Frimkess, Throwing Standing-Up Teapot
c. 1972, Glazed stoneware. 8 x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Joshua White. [via]

The Career Achievement Award “honoring brilliance and resilience” was given to Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Michael Frimkess, a couple who have been making imaginative art pottery together for over fifty years. He throws the pots and she paints them, with the resulting vessels drawing on influences as disparate as Greek vases and comic strips. Their inclusion in the exhibition was part of the Hammer’s attempt to highlight the work of under-recognized artists, in the same way that 2012’s Made in L.A. refocused attention on the late serial geometric artist Channa Horwitz.

Jennifer Moon, There Is Nothing Left but Freedom, detail of You Can Kill My Body, but You Can’t Kill My Soul, 2013, Photograph. 56 x 53 ¾ in. Courtesy of Transmission Gallery, Glasgow. [via]
Jennifer Moon, There Is Nothing Left but Freedom, detail of You Can Kill My Body, but You Can’t Kill My Soul, 2013, Photograph. 56 x 53 ¾ in. Courtesy of Transmission Gallery, Glasgow. [via]

Jennifer Moon was “the hands-down crowd favorite,” according to Hammer director Annie Philbin, securing her the Public Recognition Award from among the 35 participating artists. Moon’s autobiographical sculpture, photography and text-based work blend elements of fantasy and revolutionary ideology with a deadpan sense of humor. Take for instance, her photo “You can kill my body, but you can’t kill my soul” which features Moon emulating the famous image of Black Panther Huey Newton seated in a peacock chair. Her dog Mr. Snuggles sits at her feet, wearing a matching red beret. In “The Book of Eros,” a massive tome resembling something from “The Hobbit,” Moon chronicles every person she’s been romantically or physically entangled with since 1993. It is this mix of the personal and political, presented as an engrossing narrative, that proved so appealing to the public. Or perhaps as Moon told the L.A. Times, “the fact that the public engaged with my work might mean that they are actually ready for revolution.”


Baldessari, McCarthy on View at France’s Oldest Mint

John Baldessari, Your Name in Lights [via]
John Baldessari, Your Name in Lights [via the Monnaie de Paris]

When the oldest institution in France, the Monnaie de Paris, re-opens next month as a center dedicated to culture and commerce, it will showcase work by two of contemporary art’s biggest names. They are not Parisians, however, but Angelenos.

John Baldessari’s Your Name in Lights will inaugurate the space, running for a month beginning on September 13. Thousands of people will receive their 15 seconds of fame when their illuminated names are displayed on the 18th century building’s façade. The artist has put out an open call, and organizers expect 100,000 participants.

Paul McCarthy, Santa with Tree. Photograph: Svetlana Bachevanova, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hauser & Wirth [via Claudine Colin Communication]
Paul McCarthy, Santa with Tree. Photograph: Svetlana Bachevanova, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hauser & Wirth [via Claudine Colin Communication]

The Monnaie was founded in 864 to mint coins, so it is fitting that Paul McCarthy’s sprawling Chocolate Factory installation pays homage to this commercial legacy. From October 25th to January 4th, visitors will be greeted by an actual chocolate workshop staffed by confectioners. They will be churning out chocolate sculptures of Santa Claus and a Christmas Tree that bears a striking resemblance to a sex toy. For those who have always dreamed of owning a McCarthy but have lacked the means, “the consumable and perishable artworks produced by “Chocolate Factory” are available for purchase there and then, in unlimited quantities,” according to the press release. (Unlimited quantities, people!) Hopefully R. Kelly will be providing the soundtrack.

Beyond the main hall, a series of salons have been transformed into McCarthy’s “own personal dreamworld.” The artist’s bed will also be on site for the duration of show, giving Tracey Emin a run for her money.


KChung Tells the Hammer to Get Better Rules

KChung TV [via]
KChung TV [via]

When the Hammer Museum introduced the $100,000 Mohn Award as part of its first Made in L.A. biennial two years ago, it generated quite a bit of controversy. A jury of experts narrowed the field down to five artists, whom the public then voted on to select the winner. Populists were outraged that they were not allowed to choose from among all 60 participating artists, while others viewed it as a vulgar popularity contest, an artsy “American Idol,” where, as we all know, the best singer doesn’t always win.

In response to this criticism, they’ve split the award into three – a $100,000 Mohn Award, now selected solely by a jury, a $25,000 career achievement award, also jury selected, and a $25,000 Public Recognition Award, which the public selects from among all 35 artists in the exhibition. More than 3000 votes have already been cast, surpassing 2012’s total.

With nearly three dozen artists to choose from, how does one stand out from the crowd? LA Weekly recently profiled KChung DJ Johnnie JungleGuts and his campaign to win the award for the radio station. For Made in L.A., KChung has set up a make-shift studio in the museum’s lobby where they are broadcasting an experimental TV program, KChung TV, every weekend during the exhibition. JungleGuts’ lobbying effort includes pleas on his Tumblr, Instagram and Vine, as well as a June 26th Masturbate-a-thon, for which 81 people pledged to pleasure themselves while thinking about KChung.

KChung is one of a handful of collectives participating in this year’s Made in L.A. (alongside artspace/publisher Public Fiction, and James Kidd Studio), creating potential new controversies for the competition. “KChung has far more members than any other single artist or collective in Made in L.A.,” notes Jennifer Swann. “More people could translate to more votes.” To which JungleGuts replied, “If we win, it’s like, ‘Sorry, get better rules.’ ”

It also highlights the challenges inherent in comparing artforms that are always on view like painting, sculpture and video, with KChung’s performative broadcasts, which only take place on weekends. Instead of a live taping, weekday visitors are greeted by an empty, if evocative, studio.

Another wrinkle is that at least ten artists in Made in L.A. (Max Maslansky, Luke Fischbeck, Harsh Patel, Jennifer Moon…) are affiliated with KChung. It is possible that fans of multiple artists could throw their lot in with the collective, thereby spreading the wealth in a sense among a number of Made in L.A. participants, instead of singling one out for recognition. Which would be fine with many artists, who perhaps see it as tacky to promote themselves for a monetary prize. “It’s almost shameful to want it,” says Moon.

The public will see whether JungleGuts’ grassroots campaign is successful at the end of the month when all three award recipients are named. Voting for the Public Recognition Award ends this Sunday, August 17th.

LA’s MOCA Faces Upcoming Exhibition Gaps

[Cameron, Aleister Crowley's Guardian Angel,  Photo by Alan Shaffer. via]
Cameron, Aleister Crowley’s Guardian Angel, Photo by Alan Shaffer. Opens at MOCA PDC October 11. [via]

LA’s MOCA has had a rocky road over the past few years, but with the appointment of new director Philippe Vergne and new chief curator Helen Molesworth earlier this year, not to mention an endowment topping $100 million and counting, the museum seems to be back on track. One hurdle it will need to overcome, however, is the spotty upcoming exhibition schedule.

As Christopher Knight reported in the LA Times on Monday, it’s unclear what will be on view at MOCA’s three locations after current exhibitions close. The Mike Kelley retrospective has just wrapped at the Geffen Contemporary, which will remain closed for roof repairs. No word on when it will re-open or what will be on view when it does.

At MOCA Grand, Cinema Vezzoli closes August 11th, followed in September by a mid-career exhibition on the work of Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernandez, as well as Andy Warhol’s massive Shadows series, on loan from the Dia Art Foundation (Vergne’s previous employer). After these shows close in early 2015, nothing is on the books.

And at MOCA’s outpost at the Pacific Design Center, the current video installation by “12 Years a Slave” director Steven McQueen will be followed in October by an exhibition focusing on eccentric L.A. occultist Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel, a devotee of Aleister Crowley, whose work influenced Ferus Gallery artists like Wallace Berman and George Herms. When that show closes in January, nothing is scheduled for the space until next September.

Knight notes that these scheduling holes are largely the result of the shortsightedness of Vergne’s predecessor, Jeffrey Deitch, under whose tenure longtime chief curator Paul Schimmel left the museum. Deitch chose not to replace Schimmel, relying instead on freelance curators “who have little investment in the institution’s future,” according to Knight. This situation leaves Vergne and Molesworth scrambling to book exhibitions that normally take years to arrange. MOCA has said they will make an announcement about future plans by the end of the summer.

Instead of viewing this as a setback however, Knight suggests it could be an opportunity for MOCA to showcase some of the 6,000 works in its permanent collection that rarely get seen. To this end, Carolina Miranda recommends three creative ways to explore the collection: artist choice shows, guest curators, and unconventional approaches like showing works grouped by color. These most likely wouldn’t be hard-hitting, scholarly exhibitions, but they could be fun and experimental ways to show off one of Southern California’s great collections of contemporary art. And they could buy the museum time until its new leaders are able to mount the more ambitious shows that MOCA has been known for in the past.


Los Angeles Street Art Gallery Expands into Dallas


Lab Art’s Eric Rosiak, Iskander Lemseffer and Adam Persiani

Three-year-old Lab Art, a Los Angeles gallery dedicated to street art and graffiti, is opening a second space in the Dallas Design District in September. Founder Iskander Lemseffer, whose background is in fashion, opened the original space in 2011 in the mid-Wilshire neighborhood of L.A. to showcase and sell the work of street artists (and here we won’t get into the pros and cons of domesticating urban art or the long and mixed history of commercializing it). The gallery’s list of artists—many who use only their tag names—can be found here.

While Lemseffer was looking to expand Lab Art into other markets, the gallery’s Instagram caught the eye of Dallas-based investment guys Eric Rosiak and Adam Persiani, who have since partnered with Lemseffer; they’ll open the 4500 square foot space at 315 Cole Street in Dallas with a group show from the gallery’s L.A. stable on September 18. The second show, opening in October, will be a solo show by a Lab Art mainstay who goes by Alec Monopoly, whose bio on the Lab Art website reads: “‘Alec Monopoly’ is the alias of an unidentified graffiti artist, originally from New York City. The artist primarily works in the urban environments of New York, Los Angeles, and London using varied materials… to subversively depict the mascot of the board game, Monopoly.” And there you have it.

Says Lemseffer (via CultureMap Dallas): “The Dallas Design District is booming right now, and I ship so much to Dallas it’s not even funny.”


(photo: CultureMap Dallas and Lab Art)



Hans Ulrich Obrist to Moderate Instagram Talk

[Hans Ulrich Obrist on the left, via]
[Hans Ulrich Obrist on the left, via]

If you have an Instagram account – there are currently over 200 million users - you may have noticed the recent proliferation of artists using the image-sharing app. Everyone’s got their list of the top ten, fifteen or 134 artists to follow. (Ai Wei Wei, Richard Prince, and Vik Muniz are among the most popular.) Art website Hyperallergic just wrapped a year’s worth of columns on the selfie – arguably the most common image type on Instagram. Which all begs the question: “But is it Art?”

Ai Wei Wei's "leg gun" which went viral on Instagram earlier this year
Ai Wei Wei’s “leg gun” which went viral on Instagram earlier this year

This is just one of the avenues of inquiry that tireless curator Hans Ulrich Obrist will be exploring at an Instagram Mini-Marathon this Saturday evening in downtown LA. HUO (whose own Instagram boasts 41,000 followers) has teamed up with local blog/artspace/publisher ForYourArt to present the panel discussion that will include artists Meg Cranston, Frances Stark, and Alex Israel, among others. Topics will include how Instagram “functions within their individual practices,” “whether Instagram is a personal, social, or artistic space,” and also who to follow (in case you need more reasons to be staring at your phone all day), according to ForYourArt’s founder Bettina Korek. No word on whether they will cover whether Valencia or Nashville is the best filter for getting your art noticed.

Ulrich Obrist originally conceived of the Mini-Marathon concept in 2005 as a way to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on the ways in which the visual arts intersect with science, technology and other artforms, like music, theater and architecture.

Fittingly, the Mini-Marathon will take place at the historic Million Dollar Theatre, which was opened by Sid Grauman almost 100 years ago, as a home for the last century’s most popular form of image consumption. The event begins at 7:30, doors at 6:30 and tickets can be obtained here.

Public Art in Billboard Form

Roy McMakin, Favorite Color, 2010 [via]
Roy McMakin, Favorite Color, 2010 [via]

Public art is commonly (and often rightfully) criticized for being too safe and inoffensive. Public funds demand public consensus, which means we are usually left with the lowest common denominator – something that no one could possibly be offended or inspired by. André Breton famous dictum – “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all” – seems not to apply to public art, where people would rather choose lack of beauty than suffer the convulsions.

Which is why privately funded public art is often better than that using taxpayer dollars. A new project funded by private donors aims to counter this trend by taking the greatest hits of American art out of museums and placing them on 500,000 outdoor advertising structures in all fifty states. Art Everywhere US will feature 58 (North) American artworks from five major museums chosen by you, the public, to grace billboards, bus shelters, and subway posters nationwide from August 4th – 31st. While the prospect of gazing at Grant Wood’s American Gothic or Joseph Stella’s Brooklyn Bridge while waiting for the bus is certainly a more appealing option than staring slack-jawed at a Mountain Dew ad, the populist campaign is drawing criticism from some. Famed ad man Peter Arnell of all people, is skeptical, telling the New York Times it will be “demeaning to the art” since “people will perceive the art as advertising.” And in a sense it is advertising, enticing people to go into one of the five participating museums to see the work in person. But it remains to be seen if people will actually be drawn to these institutions, when they can glimpse an Edward Hopper or Jasper Johns from the comfort of their car as they cruise down the freeway.

Catherine Opie, The Shores, 2013 [via Rainey Knudson]
Catherine Opie, The Shores, 2013

A similar project that navigates the challenges and pitfalls of public art is the Murals of La Jolla in San Diego. Since 2010 a rotating selection of site-specific murals and vinyl billboards have graced the sides of buildings throughout the city. Turn a corner and you can find a work by artists as diverse as John Baldessari, Gajin Fujita, or Ann Hamilton. One reason for the success of the project is the fact that it is privately funded and located on private property, thereby skirting the issues that compromise so many pieces of public art. This is not to say that the work is created or sited without concern for its audience. Many of the works directly address life in Southern California, such as Catherine Opie’s image of surfers or Fred Tomaselli’s homage to Chula Vista Chicano punk band the Zeros. To create his mural, Roy McMakin asked a group of locals what their favorite colors were.

In an attempt to channel energy from this public project back into the gallery, Quint Gallery has asked artists who participated in the mural project to recommended an underrepresented or emerging artist. Their choices will be shown in a group exhibition “Horizon,” which opens this Saturday and runs through September 6th. Notable picks include Rashell George, James Enos and Heather Rasmussen. After all, shouldn’t the role of public art be to broaden our horizons, not just recycle familiar images?


LACMA Considers Gehry Skyscraper



LACMA recently announced that it would be revising its Peter Zumthor-designed expansion to span Wilshire Boulevard, and now it may be adding a skyscraper to this plan. According to Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, museum officials are in the very early stages of talks with LA Metro and other property owners to build a mixed-use tower above the forthcoming subway station on the south side of Wilshire.

The building would house a hotel and condos, as well as a new architecture and design wing of the museum. This is significant, since the Architecture and Design Museum (which is not affiliated with LACMA) that currently sits on the lot will be demolished to make room for the subway.

Michael Govan, LACMA’s entrepreneurial director, has expressed interest in having Frank Gehry design the new structure, and possibly housing Gehry’s archives there. “I’m jealous that New York has a Gehry tower and we don’t,” said Govan, perhaps appealing to potential donors’ feelings of civic inadequacy. Gehry offered a characteristically terse, “I’m open to it.” He has good reason to be cautious in his enthusiasm: Gehry’s museum buildings have generally been more favorably received outside of LA than in his hometown.

This proposal follows controversial developments in New York, where MoMA will be expanding into a Jean Nouvel designed skyscraper, and in Santa Monica, where a mixed-use development is at the center of a proposal for a re-designed Bergamot Station. Before LACMA can even begin to think seriously about construction however, it must negotiate with nearby property owners and LA Metro since the museum only owns one-third of the land.

Ruscha Tops List of Most Expensive Living West Coast Artists

Ed Ruscha, Burning Gas Station (1965-66), (via

Ed Ruscha, Burning Gas Station (1965-66), (via

The numbers are in and Ed Ruscha tops the list of the 10 Most Expensive Living West Coast Artists, according to ArtNet. His Burning Gas Station (1965-66) sold for almost $7 million at Christie’s in 2007. The rest of the list is dominated by L.A.-based artists and includes punk pioneer Raymond Pettibon, master of the abject Paul McCarthy, delightful oddball Charles Ray, and conceptual art godfather John Baldessari.

Paul McCarthy, Tomato head (Green) (1994), sold for $4,562,500 in 2011 (via

Paul McCarthy, Tomato head (Green) (1994), sold for $4,562,500 in 2011 (via

Paintings are unsurprisingly well represented, ranging from Two Jackpots (2005) by Wayne Thiebaud (who got his start at Disney), to abstract paintings by established L.A. natives Mark Grotjahn and Mark Bradford, to a massive spray-painted canvas by young turk Sterling Ruby. Ruscha’s Ferus Gallery associate Robert Irwin rounds out the list at #10, with a minimal painting of his from 1963-64 that sold for a little over $1 million at Christie’s in 2008. These figures are still quite modest compared to the highest-selling lot by a living artist, Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange), which sold for $58.4 million last year.

Sterling Ruby, SP231 (2013), sold for $1,785,000 in 2013 (via

Sterling Ruby, SP231 (2013), sold for $1,785,000 in 2013 (via

It should be noted that Artnet based their rankings not on overall sales or even average auction sales, but on the single most expensive piece sold by each artist at auction. Although this would seem to give outliers (and Russian oligarchs) outsize influence over the results, an artist’s value is still largely determined by their auction record, despite the opacity of the auction market.

The results are also further evidence of the gender and racial imbalance of the art market – all of the artists listed above are male and nine are white. After Micol Hebron finishes with her gender tally of the gallery scene, perhaps she should turn her attention to Sotheby’s and Christie’s?