SWAMP Goes Virtual—But Not Before a Big Party and Garage Sale!

SWAMPAfter almost 30 years, Houston’s Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP) is moving out of its physical location at 1519 West Main and into a “virtual office” (Mary Lampe’s living room?). On Sunday, October 19th, from 9am-5pm, there will be a going-away party for the SWAMP house with beer, wine, snacks, and memories. SWAMP is also emptying the house of everything, which means that film geeks can rummage through film equipment, a library of filmmaking books, and movie posters to find some bargains.

SWAMP will continue to work on producing the 35th season of The Territory, its groundbreaking, statewide PBS broadcast series featuring independent short films and videos, scheduled to air in early 2015.

NEA Chairman Visits Houston for First Time Tomorrow and Will Answer Your Questions About the Future of the NEA

Jane_Chu photo for confirmThe Houston Arts Alliance will be hosting a visit and talk by the new National Endowment For the Arts chairperson Jane Chu tomorrow at the Asia Society. This is Chu’s first visit to Houston, and she’ll follow her talk about her vision for the NEA with a public question-and-answer session.

Chu’s position before her NEA appointment in June was as the president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. She’s a native of Oklahoma and was raised in Arkansas, and got her masters at SMU in Dallas and her PhD in philanthropic studies from Indiana University.

Afterward, Chu will visit Project Row Houses with Rick Lowe. The earlier talk starts at 11:30 am on Wednesday, is free and open to the public (and moderated by Houston Arts Alliance president Jonathon Glus) but space is limited, so go here for info on how to secure your spot.



Honorary Texan Wins $300K in ArtPrize Competition

Agha_DanaAlthough Glasstire reported that Darryl Lauster was the lone Texan shortlisted for the ArtPrize (the international art competition based in Grand Rapids, Michigan), we are also going to claim the grand prizewinner as an honorary Texan. Anila Quayyum Agha received her MFA in Fiber Art from the University of North Texas in Denton in 2004. She then hung out in Houston for while as a 2005 artist-in-residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and participated in the 2005-6 Creative Capital Professional Development Workshop at DiverseWorks.

Intersections by Anila Quayyum Agha won both the Public Grand Prize and tied for Juried Grand Prize, making her the first artist to win in both categories. She received a total of $300,000 in prize money.

Agha(Photos: Grand Rapids Art Museum director Dana Friis-Hansen with Anila Quayyum Agha and installation view of Intersections. Both photos by Drew Davis.)

The Nasher Has a New Assistant Curator and You’ll Never Guess Who It Is! Oh Wait! Yes You Will!

1907896_10101566392997843_2801089436063520071_oI may be jumping the gun a tad, but not by much. Some little Facebook birds let on over the weekend,  possibly inadvertently but nonetheless clearly, that Leigh Arnold has been appointed Assistant Curator at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Up to last year, as she finished her masters at UTD, she was a research project coordinator at the Dallas Museum of Art and the researcher and co-curator for the “DallasSITE” 50-year retrospective there. After that fellowship ended, she joined the Nasher as curatorial fellow. Now they’ve made her a an honest woman by giving her the real title and responsibility. Arnold has been a key and keen member of the Dallas art scene since she landed here 2006. Congrats, Leigh Arnold! We’re glad you’re sticking around.



Bloomberg Wants to Give $1 Million for Your City Art Project

MBloombergUltra-rich former NYC mayor Michael (he’s “Mike” on all his websites) Bloomberg’s charitable foundation has announced a “Public Art Challenge” today, inviting U.S. cities to develop temporary public art projects that “enhance cultural and economic activity.” Mayors in cities with populations of 30,000 or more (Texas has some of those!) can submit proposals beginning today for visual, performing arts and multimedia projects. Finalists will be selected in February and at least three cities will be chosen in May. Each will receive $1 million to develop projects over two years.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has posted the application and guidelines on its website. Artists: it’s time to come up with some huge, crazy projects and cozy up to your local mayor!

(Image: Associated Press)

IRS Tries to Upset Artist/Teacher Applecart: Crile Case Makes Art Safe for the Unprofitable

crileThe United States Tax Court ruled earlier this month that artists who make little or no money from the sales of their artworks and support themselves through teaching can continue to deduct their business expenses on their annual tax returns.

In Susan Crile v. Commissioner, a case that had the potential to upset the artist/teacher applecart, the IRS contended that artist Susan Crile, who teaches at Hunter College in New York, was making her art primarily as a prerequisite for keeping her teaching job, and that it did not constitute a legitimate “activity engaged in for profit,” and so was not eligible for the tax deductions normal for businesses of other types. It also maintained that, even if Crile’s art was a legitimate business, that many of her deductions were not “ordinary and necessary” business expenses.

The court documents recap Crile’s extensive resume, establishing beyond doubt her status as a legitimate professional, and Judge Albert G. Lauber ruled that she was indeed engaged in the “trade or business” of being and artist, and that the “enjoyment of her art activity–at least some of its
aspects–is not sufficient to cause it to be classified as a hobby rather than a business.”

Despite the clear recognition of Crile’s professional status, the expense-qualifying part of Crile’s case was iffy. Despite earning a total of $667,902 from sales of art between 1971-2013, with her best year, 1995, adding $111,815, Crile has never reported a net profit from her art business. The judge split the cases, and will consider the details of Crile’s accounting later.

The case brought forth some strange opinions from artworld experts who testified for Crile:

According to the New York Times, “Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, said Monday that the ability to deduct art-related expenses — in art careers that might generate little money — was ‘one of the last remaining areas where the federal government cuts artists any slack to allow them to do what they do,’ and that its protection was crucial,” which seemed to argue exactly against the winning contention of Crile’s lawyers that Crile’s art was a business like any other!

With the media full of tales of fast money, soap-bubble speculation, and insane auction prices, the lengthy description of the specifics of Crile’s long, serious, and not-too-profitable career is a sobering reality check.

New Faces at the Dallas Museum of Art: Berry CFO

On Friday, The Dallas Museum of Art announced a pack of staff appointments:

Brenda Berry

Brenda Berry, photo:

Brenda Berry has been named its new Chief Financial Officer, responsible for all accounting, financial operations, and financial reporting on the museum’s $26 million budget. She joined the DMA in 2012 as its controller. Before working for the DMA, Berry worked for Resources Global Professionals (RGP), a consulting firm. A certified public accountant, Berry’s earlier professional experience includes Audit Partner and other executive positions at Hogan & Slovacek, Tulsa and Deloitte & Touche L.L.P., Los Angeles and Costa Mesa, CA. She graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in Business and Commerce.

Marin Fiske-Rankin is the DMA’s new Director of Special Events. She came over from SMU’s Meadows Museum, where she was Assistant Director of Events and Food Service Operations for six years. Fiske-Rankin holds a BFA in Design and Visual Communications from Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky.

Mary Balthrop has been appointed the Museum’s first-ever Secretary & General Counsel. She will see to the needs of the Board of Trustees as well as advise on legal issues. She joins the DMA from the Dallas office of Baker Botts L.L.P., where she worked as a transactional lawyer. Balthrop holds a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she earned the Order of the Coif distinction, and a BA in Sociology from Rice University, where she graduated magna cum laude. Following graduation from law school, Balthrop served as a law clerk to Justice Diane M. Henson of the Third Court of Appeals of Texas.

Aubrey DeZego has been named Director of Institutional Giving, another new position, in the Museum’s development department. She joins the DMA from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where she was most recently Assistant Director of Grants and Corporate Partnerships. DeZego is a graduate of Butler University in Indianapolis and holds a BS in Arts Administration.

Artnet Names Two Texas Foundations in a Top Ten List

Bulding-at-night-576x321Artnet asks: “Who are the Henry Clay Fricks, J.P. Morgans, or Andrew Carnegies of our era?” In Texas, I would likely point to the de Menils and the Nashers, but Artnet News had other ideas and were going for smaller, younger, quirkier. In its recently published list of Top 10 Private Contemporary Art Museums, two Texas non-profits made the cut: The Goss-Michael Foundation in Dallas, and the Linda Pace Foundation in San Antonio. What, no Rachofsky? It looks like Artnet left off those gifting their collections to major museums, so despite the fact that the Rachofskys have not one but two non-DMA spaces dedicated to their collection, the DMA’s eventual windfall keeps Rachofsky off the list.

The top ten list of course includes the De La Cruz and Rubell Family Collections in Miami, and Peter Brant’s place up in Connecticut gets the top spot (thought the choices aren’t really ranked).

Don’t Mind the Pelicans! Galveston Artist Residency Greets 2014-15 Artists

GAR apartmentGrace Ndiritu, Dan Schmahl, and Hilary Wilder have been named 2014 – 2015 Artists in Residence at the Galveston Artist Residency.

Ndiritu is a British/Kenyan artist whose performances, writing and videos have been shown all over Europe. Schmahl is a recent BFA graduate of Florida State University, searching for the sublime through photography video, and his own small press, Super Hit Press. Wilder is returning to the Houston area; she was a CORE fellow in 2004, and has since gone on to other resdencies and a teaching job at Virginia Commonwealth University.

GAR also announced Victoria Sambunaris as a “Special Project Artist.” Sambunaris, a photographer who crosses and recrosses the United States on “journeys,” has, most recently, been working along the border in South Texas.

Two of the three new residents are accepting deferred invitations from past years; only one is a new grant. Residencies at the GAR last for 11 months, and include a studio, an apartment, a stipend of $1,000 per month and a bicycle.

Smither Park is Getting There: Let’s Party!

Amphitheater: almost done!

Amphitheater: almost done!

It’s probably a sign of its funky aesthetic that the folks at Houston’s new Smither Park will put on a party at the drop of a hat (“We thought of it” party, “We have architectural drawings” party, “We’re starting the wall” party, “We have the shell of the amphitheater” party). The half-acre of land adjacent to the Orange Show Monument is really coming to life now, so it’s time for another celebration.

This Saturday, October 11th from 11am-3pm (at 2411 Munger Street), the park will celebrate its progress with a day of music, dancing, kids’ activities, and food. There will be performances from the lovely and crazy Loreta Kovacic and The Alchemist Piano Theatre, Poi dancers, the Art League Houston African beaders, food trucks, chalk drawings, and artists working on the Smither Park Memory Wall. And you can bring your broken china, colorful ceramic tiles, seashells, kitchen utensils, costume jewelry, keys, and such, which may be transformed into something as wonderful as this:


FotoFest Announces Theme and Dates for Its Big 2016 Biennial

SONY DSCFotoFest is gearing up for its 16th Biennial in spring of 2016 and today it announced this installment’s title and theme: “CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES: Looking at the Future of the Planet.” The event, an international biennial of photography and photo-related art (and one of the longest-running and most prestigious of its kind) will take place as usual in Houston, March 12 – April 24, 2016, and this biennial’s curators are its new executive director, Steven Evans, along with FotoFest co-founders Frederick Baldwin and Wendy Watriss.

The press release explains this theme best: “CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES will present artists, experts, scientists, writers, and policy makers looking at the inter-connected issues of climate change, population growth and migration, globalized use of natural resources, capital, and the impact of new technologies. The exhibitions and other programs will focus on the future of the Earth by examining challenges, and by proposing new ideas and solutions.”

The events draws hundreds of thousands of visitors internationally over its six-week run. For far more info on its exhibitions and programming, watch this space in the coming weeks and months.

Weekend Warriors Head West for Chinati Festivities

chinati_sunriseChinati Weekend is coming!

From 5-10pm on Friday evening, studios and galleries in downtown Marfa will be open with exhibitions and performances. On Saturday, there will be a big reception for Larry Bell’s new exhibition, followed by talks, including Bell in conversation with Marianne Stockebrand (for those not in Marfa, the talks will stream online from the Chinati website beginning at 3pm). There will also be a film screening of Donald Judd interviews, more openings, the annual benefit dinner, and a concert by The Polyphonic Spree.

For anyone who still has energy on Sunday, there will be a sunrise viewing of Judd sculptures. For those who sleep in, there will be more art and more talks throughput the day. Check out the full schedule here.

Irving Lands a Very Rare Show of Pre-Inca Art

624x468After a five-month stint at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C., an impressive show of Peruvian, Pre-Inca artifacts has traveled to the Irving Arts Center, which will be its only other Stateside appearance. “Peruvian Gold: Ancient Treasures Unearthed” was organized by the National Geographic Museum and opened in Irving last weekend. It showcases “ancient gold and silver artifacts excavated from Peru’s legendary royal tombs…” in the form of “ceremonial and funerary masks, textiles, ceremonial ornaments,” as well as ceramics, pottery and other jewelry from the era.

The key piece in the show, called El Tocado, sounds spectacular: it is the biggest and “most ornate pre-Columbian headdress ever discovered.” It dates from around 1000 A.D, and this is its first appearance in the U.S. since it was discovered 20+ years ago. In fact, none of these works have traveled much and are on loan from three Peruvian institutions: Sican National Museum, Larco Museum and Museum of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru. The show runs through December 31. For more information, please go here.



Picasso Vandal Announces Vague Plans to Produce a Show, a Book, and to Overturn the New World Order

landerosAfter spending 21 months in prison for his spraycan stunt at the Menil Collection, Uriel Landeros recently granted an interview with blogger Chris Tarango, which has been getting passed around on social media the past few days. Although the comments on the various posts have been pretty negative, Landeros explains the responses to his action:

Not everyone was pissed off, some people were very happy with what I did, many strangers clapped @ my actions & and continue to do so. Most of the people who were hating on me where [sic] so called “artists” who have never been able to break the veil of success.

Landeros also mysteriously announces some upcoming projects: “I am organizing my next event. I will soon publish the date and details. I am also in the process of publishing a book about the entire story.” He states that he made over 100 paintings and thousands of drawings while in prison, which will be featured in his next show. “My force of creation has only gotten stronger,” brags Landeros, although he adds, “I stopped making art years ago though all I make now is art history.”

Blogger Tarango seems to admire Landeros’ actions, adding quotation marks to words like “vandalize” and “destroy,” even in the blog entry’s title “I Intreviewed [sic] the Guy Who Went Into a Museum & ‘Vandalized’ a Picasso.” Perhaps, like Landeros, he believes the action was relatively harmless since the painting could be cleaned of his additions. “Believe me I know about paint, I am a professional,” says Landeros. “I knew that the painting would be easily restored.”

While identifying with movements such as Occupy (“The whole point was to leave a message to create a voice and spark another fire against this NEW WORLD ORDER.”), Landeros embraced the publicity and got a few shows out of it. “When those things began to happen, I was skeptical because I thought that the museum and galleries were working with the F.B.I. and U.S. Marshalls,” he states. “But after some research I found out those opportunities were legit, so I welcomed them.”

A.L. Steiner Returns to Dallas This Week to Speak About Her Work

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 3.44.53 PMA.L. Steiner–member of Chicks on Speed, co-founder of Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.), and otherwise noteworthy multi-media artist superstar–will be on hand to speak about her work at SMU in Dallas this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Steiner’s career is on a roll, and what she has to say about her work and (maybe also) her experience in the art world should be illuminating. Her work has been exhibited widely and internationally including at MoMA and the Tate; her last appearance in Dallas was summer 2013 when she and collaborator A.K. Burns visited UTD’s CentralTrak for a screening of their feature-length “sociosexual” video, Community Action Center. She is currently professor and director of USC Roski School of Art and Design and a visiting MFA Faculty at Bard College.

Her talk is an installment of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts’ Visiting Artist Lecture Series, and it takes place at 6:30 p.m. this Wednesday, October 8th in the O’Donnell Hall in the Owen Arts Center on SMU Campus; admission is free. For more info on the event, please go here or here.

“The future is much simpler than you think.”

The fall lecture series organized by the Rice School of Architecture (RSA) and the Rice Design Alliance (RDA) is called “Near Future” and it brings to Houston five visionaries from a mix of professions whose creative work attempts to forecast the future. Last week, they introduced the series with architectural historian and critic Jean-Louis Cohen, who explored themes of the future.

BarretThis Wednesday, the RSA/RDA series continues with Belgian photographer Filip Dujardin in dialogue with Oscar-nominated production designer K.K. Barrett. Barrett has partnered with Spike Jonze on all four of his feature films, including the director’s latest, the futuristic romance Her. Wired Magazine called the film the anti-Minority Report and Barrett told the magazine, “The future is much simpler than you think.” In the near future of Barrett’s production design, “Technology hasn’t disappeared,” writes Wired. “It’s dissolved into everyday life.”

It may turn out to be a comforting discussion for those overwhelmed by the speedy turnover of new technologies (although falling in love with Siri is not the recommended method of humanizing our machines).

The discussion starts at 7pm at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with a wine reception beginning at 6pm. Tickets are available online.

(Photo via

Mission Aborted: Chicago Gallery Abandons Texas Outpost

missionSebastian Campos, owner of The Mission Gallery, has announced the “end of our yearlong outpost in Houston.” The gallery’s space in the 4411 Montrose building will close its doors on October 25, at the end of the current exhibition, Moments in the System, featuring works by Adam Gondek and Anna Elise Johnson. For the record, the gallery’s Houston sojourn included eight shows:

Moments in the System
Adam Gondek, Anna Elise Johnson
Sep 5 – Oct 25, 2014

Erica Bohm : Visual Novel
Jul 25 – Aug 23, 2014

Natalia Cacchiarelli, Gustavo Díaz, Curtis Gannon, Cecilia Jaime, Jeroen Nelemans, Michelle Prazak
May 30 – Jul 19, 2014

Erica Bohm, Jeremy Bolen, Alex Chitty, Marcelo Grosman, Jason Lazarus, Jeroen Nelemans, John Opera, Daniel Shea, Missy Weimer, Bryan Zanisnik
Apr 5 – May 17, 2014

Curtis Gannon : Remnants of Yesterday/Fragments of Tomorrow
Feb 13 – Mar 29, 2014

Latin American Group Show
Gustavo Díaz, Marcelo Grosman, Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez
Nov 9, 2013 – Feb 1, 2014

Latin American Group Show
Gustavo Díaz, Marcelo Grosman, Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez
Nov 9, 2013 – Feb 1, 2014

Inaugural Group Show
Erica Bohm, Susan Giles, Adam Gondek, Máximo González, Jeroen Nelemans, Mariana Sissia, Missy Weimer
Oct 5 – Oct 26, 2013

Looking At Art Turns 25! Now let’s all move along to the next location . . .

looking at artMarshal and Victoria Lightman’s ever-present Houston art appreciation group, Looking at Art, turns 25 this year. Established in the fall of 1989, Looking At Art takes groups of earnest self-educators, fledgling collectors, and other curious folks on visits to artist’s studios, galleries, alternative spaces, museums, and collector’s homes. After 25 years, the group has visited everyone and everything there is to see in Houston many times—and though the herd-like hustle it takes to get a large-ish group from one site to another makes it easy to disparage the art-lookers as tourists, the availability of a fun, not-too-expensive group intro into the Houston art scene has put many a timid layman in touch with some the real contemporary art that’s happening in the city.

The Lightmans are super-fans: Looking at Art is but one of many pies in which they’ve got their fingers: Victoria serves as board president at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft as well as advisory board member for Inprint. Marshal currently serves on the boards of Diverse Works, Core Fellow committee at the Glassell School, and Houston Arts Alliance Civic Art committee.

Get Your Fanny Perpendicular And Go See Cheech Talk About Art Tonight in Lubbock


Cheech Marin

Cheech Marin–actor, author, standup, and of course one-half of the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong–has long been an advocate and collector of Chicano art, and tonight in Lubbock he’ll talk about it in an installment of Texas Tech’s Presidential Lecture Series.

Marin’s talk, supported by Tech’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, is titled “Chicano Art: Perspectives of an Art Advocate.” Says Marin: “My goal is to bring the term ‘Chicano’ to the forefront of the art world. Chicano art is American art.” It starts at 7 p.m at Tech’s Allen Theater; general admission is $18, but Tech students get in free. More info on tonight’s lecture here. In addition to Marin’s appearance, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: “A display titled ‘Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection’ will be exhibited today through Dec. 14 at Tech’s art building, including from 8-10 p.m…[tonight].”

Court Ruling on Art Estate Taxes Could Save You Millions

Robert Motherwell, Elegy to Spanish Republic #134 (1976). Courtesy the Elkins Collection.

Robert Motherwell, Elegy to Spanish Republic #134 (1976).
Courtesy the Elkins Collection.

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By Eileen Kinsella

In what is being viewed as a victory for art collectors looking to dodge or minimize estate taxes, a US Appeals court agreed that shared ownership of a multi-million dollar blue chip art collection—also known as a “fractional interest”—entitled a Texas family to a substantial tax break when it came to settling an estate.

The value of the collection is immense. Over the course of nearly three decades (1970–99), Houston-based James Elkins and his wife Margaret collected 64 works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Paul Cézanne, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Cy Twombly and Robert Motherwell, among others. Mrs. Elkins died in May 1999 and Mr. Elkins died in March 2006. Prior to their deaths, they arranged a grantor-retained income trust (or GRIT) by which partial ownership of the art passed to each of their three children.

Though the terms of this particular estate planning vehicle are complex, the basic principle is that the shared ownership interests inhibit a sale or transfer of the works, since the divided ownership means there would have to be unanimous agreement on any proposed sale. Further, the children had publicly stated that they have no interest in selling the works and are in a solid enough financial position that they have no need to.

The Elkins family reasoned that the restricted ownership impacted the value of the works and that the estate taxes owed on them should reflect a discount of 44 percent in determining their fair market value. Further, the family employed three well-known experts to provide and substantiate the extent of the discount. These included: David Nash, co-director of Mitchell-Innes & Nash; William T. Miller, an expert on Texas law; and Mark Mitchell, an expert on the valuation of fractional interests in property. The IRS, however, disagreed and hit the family with a tax bill, or “deficiency notice,” stating they owed more than $14 million plus interest.

The ruling, handed down on September 15 by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, sided with the family. The judge ruled “that deficiency resulted solely from the [IRS] Commissioner’s disallowance of the ‘fractional ownership discount’.” Earlier, a US Tax Court ruled that the family was entitled to some rate of discount but it did not accept the Elkins family’s calculations and instead settled on a seemingly arbitrary “10 percent” discount allowance. The appeals court took issue with this, stating, “We disagreed with the ultimate step in the court analysis that led it not only to reject the [Elkins family’s proposed discount] but also to adopt and apply one of its own without any supporting evidence.” The Fifth Circuit decision ruled for an even more extensive discount that ranged from 52 percent to 80 percent, depending on the work in question and based on testimony from the estate’s experts.

Donald Wood, the attorney who represented the Elkins family, told artnet News via telephone: “There is a long history under tax law of allowing discounts for minority interests in all kinds of tangible and intangible property as well as real estate. This case simply extended that well-established law to works of art. This is really the first case to ever seriously consider that issue in the case of fine art.”

We also asked art law expert Nicholas O’Donnell, a partner with Sullivan & Worcester in Boston, for his take on the ruling. O’Donnell replied, via email: “The case is a little unusual because while the taxpayer put on an extensive case about the appropriate rate of discount, the IRS put on none. Compounding that, the Tax Court decision under review rejected the estate’s proposed discount and chose 10 percent. The 5th Circuit was particularly critical that this number seemed more or less plucked out of thin air. ”

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This post originally appeared on Artnet News on Tuesday, September 30, 2014