Archive: Issue No. 108, August 2006

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The Wertz Gallery


Cai Guo-Qiang
Transparent Monument 2006
Installation at the Met


Cai Guo-Qiang Move Along, Nothing to See Here 2006
Mixed media


Barbara Jakobson�s living room
with ghost of Frank Stella
behind couch


Wednesday, July 12

How annoying. Phone publishers New Africa Press to arrange to pick up a few copies of Art in South Africa: the Future Present (authors get their own books at a discount) only to find out the book has gone out of print. No more to be had. So if you've got a copy, hold on to it. And if you've got an extra copy you want to sell, email me at

Had wanted Art in South Africa to take with me to wave around at a lecture I have to give in Atlanta.

Friday, July 14

Has any airline ever allowed you on the plane when you're not even flying on that airline? Happened to me today. Headed on a connecting flight from Washington to Atlanta, I thought I was flying American Airlines like my travelling companion, Sue Heathcock of the craft initialtive, Kultja.

According to the boarding pass, my seat number should be 29A but the seats run out at 19. I take a second look at the pass. Uh oh. Wrong airline! Should be on Delta! What's more, the Delta flight left 20 minutes ago. The AA airline attendant glances at the stub and amazingly, seems prepared to overlook the error, 'Just sit over there, honey,' All Southern charm, she indicates a seat.

I sink down and try to make myself invisible, but someone climbs on the plane calling out my name in loud officious tones. I am tracked down, and like a suspected terrorist, removed.

Atlanta, Georgia. Eventually. The Renaissance Hotel, West Peachtree Street. I am here for the National Black Arts Festival. 'Fabricated Harmony', the collaborative show, with Pat Ward Williams, has moved from The Light Factory in Charlotte, North Carolina, to the Wertz Gallery here, for the NBAF.

Saturday July 15

Is there anything more calming than being in a strange city where no one knows where you are staying with room service and unlimited access to the internet, and a DO NOT DISTURB notice hanging on the door outside? Love it.

The theme of the Festival this year is the link between the American South and South Africa. The dance group, Amajuba, is here, Writer Sindiwe Magona. The Tutu daughters. The body maps of HIV positive women, made in the project organized by Jane Solomon.� 'Beautiful things' is an exhibition of exquisite objects in a variety of materials made by South African craftspeople, and is spread across three venues, one of them, a library in the suburb of Abernathy.

The 'Beautiful Things' project has been organised jointly by Sue Heathcock and ex director of the NBAF, the warm and charismatic Harriet Sanford, and today we drive out to Abernathy to have a look at the show. Jewllery, bead objects and vases, wire animals have been arranged in square across the floor, and sales have been good.

Last night there was a gallery crawl which included the Wertz Gallery, where 'Fabricated Harmony' is showing, but I was so jet lagged I couldn't face it. Phone gallerist Jason Wertz, to introduce myself and find out how it went and he reminds me that we met at Dak'Art in 2004, at a party given by the US Embassy. The art world is small indeed.

Sunday 16

Not as important in art world terms as the burgeoning city of Miami, Atlanta is still one of the three major cities of the American south. Taking place here annually, the National Black Arts Festival is listed as the largest black arts festival in the world, in which, like Grahamstown, performance events are the most important components. There is also a film festival, discussions groups and numerous side events.

The Wertz Gallery is in a trendy part of town, one of those areas where light industry is giving way to galleries, cafes, boutiques. The show is a bit� cramped, but I like the space.

Monday, July 17

Fellow artist Pat Ward Williams arrives. Our gallery talk is tomorrow night, and has been scheduled opposite a talk by legendary writer Maya Angelou, which is a pity. I would have loved to have heard her talk.�

Tuesday, July 18

In the morning, Pat and I address sixty teachers at Hammond House, a gallery and art resource center. The audience gives great feedback. News comes through that Maya Angelou is sick, and has cancelled her engagement.

Our Wertz Gallery talk starts at 6 p.m, which goes fine. A good crowd. The gallery serves a delicious Ethiopian dinner, and later, back at the hotel, we find Jason has sent over two bottles of champagne for Pat and I.

Wednesday, July 19

Leave Atlanta and head for New York, where I will stay with old friends Joe Bacal and Annie Newman Bacal.

Friday, July 21

Rain is belting down as I leave the Bacal's upper West side apartment. I have an umbrella, but before I can even get a cab, my shoes are full of rain, and I feel as if I'm walking in leaky boats. I am to meet with Judith Regan of ReganBooks, an imprint of Harper Collins, to discuss a new book project.

Regan publish books on all kinds of subjects, and pride themselves on very high production values - beautiful paper, outstanding art direction. Examples of wonderfully desirable publications are spread all over the table as we talk.

If it all works out, it could be interesting.

Saturday July 22

Meet Laurie Farrell and artist Thomas Barry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the roof of the Met, every day until October at noon precisely, explosives detonate themselves in the sky high above a glass screen erected by Chinese artist Cia Guo-Qiang� (He is the artist who arranged the explosives which ripped a ragged band of light across the Turbine Building at the opening of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennial). The piece is entitled Transparent Monument, and dead pigeons (presumably placed there by the artist) lie feet up around the base.

At three minutes to noon, the rain starts again, and the explosion is cancelled. Elsewhere on the roof the artist's Move Along, Nothing to See Here, is a pair of painted resin alligators, rearing up against the New York skyline, stuck all over with sharp objects confiscated at airport security points.

Sunday, July 23

Is this the height of electronic� convenience, or what? I take the bus out of New York to visit old artist friend Janet Culbertson on Shelter Island, and find the bus is setup for wireless internet!

Monday, July 24

Judy Hecker, prints curator at the Museum of Modern Art has invited me over for a visit, and gives me a tour of a recent acquisitions show in the print department. There are prints by William Kentridge and Claudette Schreuders included on the show, but the show of South African prints has been pushed back to 2008.

Tuesday, July 25

Shopping at Pearl Paint on Canal. Artists' heaven. Four floors of every kind of artists' materials.

Wednesday, July 26

Lunch with Barbara Jakobson, who has stripped her East 74th street townhouse of her extraordinary art collection, auctioned it off, and started again. The place where the Frank Stella hung has retained its image is ghostly shades and lines of dust, so Barbara simply painted round it, leaving a permanent after image of the removed painting.

Later, find myself screaming up 1st Avenue with RoseLee Goldberg, in her red Porsche. We are on our way to the Guggenheim, to listen to an artist's talk by Hugo Boss finalist Peter Bock.

At one point, the seemingly mild mannered German artist tumbles off the front of the stage in the middle of his lecture, and stands up, blood pouring down his face, dazedly staggers back up the steps and starts screaming at the silenced audience in German.

'Knew that was going to happen', says RoseLee.