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Art News

Art News

by Eileen Jeng

 Visitor injured on playground; Tate Modern sued

Smiling faces have turned sour at the Tate Modern’s art playground. Carsten Höller’s Test Site, which opened last October, consists of five gigantic stainless steel slides that transport riders to and from different floors of the museum, perhaps even relieving stress and depression along the way. The stress level at the museum, however, shot up after Kate Phillips, a charity director from Glasgow, sued the Tate after allegedly injuring herself on the slide during a visit late last year.

According to The Independent, Phillips broke her hand and needed several stitches. She described “the loss of facility of my right hand” adding, “I couldn’t type, write or drive for two months. I travel extensively with work but I couldn’t even carry a suitcase. Only now, three months on, am I getting back to normal.”

Höller was already aware of the dangers of his installation; five injuries had previously been reported. However, a spokeswoman from the Tate said the museum did all they could to ensure the safety of the slides. They lined each slide with rubber mats, gave the visitors instruction booklets, and even provided “protective clothing,” reported The Independent. The health and safety department of the local council approved the slides, which are products of German engineering.

Test Site was designed for Tate’s grandiose Turbine Hall, with one slide reaching as high as five stories. Höller’s piece has been a major factor in the Tate’s recently noted status as London’s most visited tourist attraction. The artist has also installed six smaller slides in other galleries and museums. Visitors can get free, timed tickets until April 15. Photos are available at

Student magazine censored; California Art Institute-SF teacher fired

Robert Ovetz, an adjunct instructor at the commercial art school, Art Institute of California-San Francisco (AI), was recently fired in an act of censorship unexpected in a state known for it’s liberal politics.

In his cultural studies class last quarter, students collaboratively produced and distributed a magazine entitled Mute/Off. The school’s adminstration, however, took it off the shelves on December 6, 2006, just hours after circulation began. A spokeswoman for the school stated that the group’s publication “contained ‘potentially defamatory journalism’ and didn’t undergo the review process before distribution,” reported the Los Angeles Times. Ovetz suspected that the culprit was a story written by student Simone Mitchell titled “Homicide,” about racial stereotypes in video games. In the story, three African-American males use slang and commit crimes, including raping women and shooting people. At the end of the story, it is revealed that they are part of a video game played by three white suburban kids. After criticizing the school for censoring the magazine, Ovetz was told by the administration not to come back the following quarter.

After a legal counsel had reviewed the magazine, Mute/Off was placed back in circulation. California Senator Leland Yee denounced the school for violating students’ First Amendment rights, saying in an audio clip on his website, “That’s not right. In this country, we honor the First Amendment very importantly, and so therefore, it should also be for students. And this prior restraint is something we have fought against. We did get a bill out that says that public universities need to abide by the First Amendment. Now, we find we need to get another bill out that covers the private universities.” Yee says he will pass a law to safeguard the students from censorship if he has to, and believes that the school should reinstate Ovetz.

mona lisaLouvre guards frown on Mona Lisa crowds, go on strike

Some of the guards—or agents de surveillance, as they are known—at the Musée du Louvre have had it. The stress and exhaustion resulting from standing vigil over masterpieces like the Mona Lisa, which alone can attract over 65,000 visitors on one day, caused the guards to go on strike with support from their union. On February 9, the 30 guards who watch over the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo stopped work, demanding the bonus of 150 Euro (approx. $200) which other museum staffers had received.

As in most museums, the Louvre’s guards are often the sole protectors of artwork. The galleries at the Paris museum, however, have become substantially more crowded following the release of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code three years ago, reports TimesOnline. A guard at the Louvre described the frenzy surrounding the Mona Lisa: “A guy once tried to smash the glass that protects the painting and he attacked the woman attendant who tried to stop him.” As of last year, 8.3 million visitors came to the Louvre, an increase of almost one million from the year before. The guards argue that the number of new hires did not increase enough to compensate for the extra work required by such high attendance rates.

The recent strike allowed for free attendance to the Louvre one Wednesday morning in February, as guards blocked the ticket booth. However, striking guards have not yet caused the museum to close, as has been the case on numerous occasions over the past 20 years.

Art Chicago 2007 will be centerpiece of Artropolis

Art Basel is over; now, it’s Chicago’s turn—but on a slightly smaller scale. Art Chicago 2007, an international contemporary art fair, will be on view from April 27 to 29, with a special preview on April 26. Art Chicago will serve as the centerpiece of a giant citywide celebration called ARTropolis.

Art collectors, dealers, curators, patrons, and enthusiasts can check out the work of 150 exhibitors in 600 booths located in a space that spans 200,000 square feet on the 7th floor of Merchandise Mart overlooking the Chicago River in the city’s River North neighborhood. Participants will include galleries from as close as the West Loop to as far away as Paris. This is Art Chicago’s second year in the Merchandise Mart. In past years it was held in Grant Park and Navy Pier.

Tickets to Art Chicago are $15 and include admittance to various seminars, including a symposium entitled “The Art World is Flat: Globalism—Crisis and Opportunity.” Ticket buyers may also attend the international antiques fair, the Intuit show, the Artist Project, and the Bridge Art Fair, all located in the complex. Specially designed talks for students will be given on April 30. New Insight, a show curated by Renaissance Society Executive Director, Susanne Ghez, will also open. It will include the work of MFA students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Rhode Island School of Design, Yale University, Hunter College, and California Institute of the Arts, among others.

Art Chicago is just one of the many art-related events occurring in the city over the next few months. Other events include Looptopia (a 24-hour long cultural festival held on May 11), and the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums, also in May.



illustration by Natalie Edwards

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