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BY Andrew Goldstein on December 21, 2009
Diller, Scofidio & Renfro's design for an inflatable gathering space to be installed at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. ; Courtesy of Diller Scofidio & Renfro

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A blue bubble in D.C., controversy in Moscow, and a Chinese delegation at the Met were among the stories bringing 2009 to its end. Read on for ArtWeLove’s news digest, now also available in email form—bringing a comprehensive roundup of the week’s art developments to your digital doorstep. If you aren’t signed up, click here. As always, we welcome your feedback at editorial@artwelove.com.

POMPIDOU REOPENS, NOVEL MANGERS IN LONDON, & ARTS UPROAR IN MOSCOW

As the decade rolls into its close—without ever really getting a satisfactory name… is anyone happy with “the aughts?”—much of the art world has decamped to bid the tumultuous period farewell from sandy, alpine, or otherwise picturesque locales. The state of art, meanwhile, remains in an exceptional period of flux. It’s fascinating to consider how a decade that was long characterized by triumphalist art is now ending with many up-and-coming artists working in painting or the oral tradition--as if the collective imagination were so chastened by the economic, political, and environmental upheavals of the times that it’s retreated to the earliest caves of artistic practice. But as the history books advance to the next chapter, life among the institutions, collectors, and other cogs that make up the art apparatus continues at its slowed-down holiday pace.

In Paris, the striking Pompidou workers who have kept the museum shut down for over three weeks have allowed doors to reopen—not because any deal has been reached regarding the culture ministry’s plans to cut down staff, but because no one wants to miss out on the yuletide tourism bonanza. The unions say they’ll pick up the strike again in the beginning of January. People are getting in the holiday spirit in Britain, too, where nine contemporary artists, including Rebecca Warren, Mark Wallinger, and Martin Parr, have created their own versions of the nativity scene at the invitation of the Guardian newspaper. (Click here to see them.) Meanwhile, the British Museum won permission to expand with a new wing, designed by architect Richard Rogers, that will create needed space for the army of conservators working to keep the institution’s creaky collection from falling apart. Then, in Moscow, the art community is enraged over Prime Minister Putin’s decision to seemingly okay the demolition of an esteemed Soviet-era arts space, the Central House of Artists—most likely so that Yelena Baturina, the real-estate billionaire wife of Moscow’s mayor, can build a mixed-purpose development on the site, designed by Norman Foster.

A SEARCH FOR CARAVAGGIO'S BONES & EMBARRASSMENT OVER A DUBIOUS MICHELANGELO

On the art historical front, Caravaggio returned to the news yet again when a group of researchers announced that it plans to search a cemetery in the Tuscan seaside town of Porto Ercole for the painter’s never-located remains. (On the run for murder, he is known to have died in 1610 from illness and an untreated wound from a tavern brawl.) In Rome, meanwhile, prosecutors have launched a fraud investigation after several art historians declared that a wood carving of Christ, said to be by Michelangelo and purchased by the Italian government for over $3 million, is really by another artist, and a second rate piece at that.

CHINA CLEARS THE MET, ART FAIRS CANCEL, & D.C. GETS A BLUE BALLOON

In New York, a Chinese delegation paid a much-apprehended visit to the Met as part of a campaign to find plundered artifacts from Beijing’s Old Summer Palace—which British and French troops pillaged in 1860—in foreign museum collections. Filmed by a Chinese camera crew and sponsored by a Chinese liquor company, the search of the Met’s holdings came up empty. Elsewhere in New York there were several shake-ups at the Park Avenue Armory when uncertainty about the strength of the art market in 2010 led the Works on Paper fair to cancel its appearance there in February, and the International Fine Art Fair looks likely to cancel at the venue as well. The blue-chip Art Dealers Association of America fair has meanwhile postponed from February to the beginning of March to coincide with the Armory Show in an attempt to piggyback its audience.

In Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art had better financial news, announcing the appointment of billionaire Ukranian mogul Victor Pinchuk to their board, as well as publisher Peter Brant and art collector Steven T. Mnuchin. Another prominent collector, the Miami-based Mera Rubell, showed her dedication to contemporary art in a different, more energetic way—in an effort to pick 12 Washington, D.C., artists for a benefit auction, she spent 36 hours doing a round-the-clock tour of 36 artist studios, visiting them at all hours of the night and taking only short intermittent naps. Her verdict of the city’s art scene? "There's nothing to fight for here. There's not enough contemporary art being shown." However, a bright spot for the capitol appeared on the horizon with the unveiling of a design by Diller, Scofidio & Renfro for an inflatable gathering space to be installed on the roof of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. A robin’s-egg-blue bubble that would bring a jolt of welcome color to the National Mall, the structure would be a dramatic follow-up to the High Line, the architecture’s firm recent coup of urban design in New York. In the New York Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote the Hirshhorn project “could be the most uplifting work of civic architecture built in the capital” in 30 years. Finally the International Association of Art Critics has named its list of the top gallery and museum shows in 2009. See it here. Happy Holidays! Here's to a happy, healthy, and exciting 2010.

Related Articles:

"Paris Pompidou Centre reopens after strike" [via the Agence France-Presse]

"Thoroughly modern mothers: artists reimagine the Christmas nativity scene" [via the Guardian]

"British Museum wins battle for new extension" [via the Evening Standard]

"Moscow Cultural Landmark Is Seen as Threatened" [via the New York Times]

"Caravaggio: scientists hope to find Italian artist's bones" [via the Telegraph]

"Wooden figure of Jesus Christ is not work of Michelangelo, art historians say" [via the Telegraph]

"http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/6833354/Michelangelo-figure-may-be-a-fake.html" [via the Telegraph]

"China Hunts for Art Treasures in U.S. Museums" [via the New York Times]

"Armory Shows Imperiled, While Other Fairs Adjust" [via the New York Times]

"Victor Pinchuk Among New LA MOCA Trustees" [via artinfo.com]

"Collector Mera Rubell makes rounds of Washington's isolated artists" [via the Washington Post]

"In Washington, a Different Kind of Bubble" [via the New York Times]

"AICA Names Exhibitions of the Year" [via artinfo.com]

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