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Mattress Girl at Columbia: Victim art turns everyone into a critic

A cultural controversy with an unusually long half-life, "Carry That Weight", aka Mattress Girl at Columbia University, has proved once again that the category of victim art tends to bring out opinions and emotions from public figures who don't normally weigh in on arty matters. 

Columbia's commencement ceremony Tuesday saw undergraduate art major Emma Sulkowicz lugging the infamous twin mattress that she has been carrying around campus since September, after claiming that she was raped in 2012 by a male student. 

The mattress was part of a performance art project, titled "Carry That Weight," which the senior reportedly conceived as part of her degree. Her project has earned plaudits from some feminists and left-leaning politicians, and condemnation from those who see it as a dubious publicity stunt, a form of harassment and an outright lie.

It has also resulted in legal action from Paul Nungesser, the German student who was at the center of her rape claims. Nungesser was eventually cleared...

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Actors' Equity disputes Evidence Room's producing status

In the ongoing wage dispute between many small Los Angeles theater companies and Actors' Equity Assn., a strange sideshow has developed between Evidence Room, a small L.A. theater company that has operated for 20 years, and the New York-based national union that represents stage actors and managers.

Leaders at Evidence Room said this week that they have received communication from Equity stating that the union has no record that the company has ever produced shows in L.A. under the union's 99-seat plan.

Evidence Room has officially disputed this claim, saying that it has produced numerous shows throughout its history.

"I have to say it makes me curious about your record-keeping over there," said the company's  founding artistic director, Bart DeLorenzo, in a recent letter to an Equity representative.

The conflict is connected to an effort by the union to determine whether a number of local L.A. theaters qualify as "membership companies" -- stage organizations that are structured around...

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Frank Gehry wins Getty Trust's annual career achievement medal

Frank Gehry is this year’s recipient of the J. Paul Getty Medal, the Getty Trust’s annual award for leadership in visual art.

Gehry becomes the first designer or artist to win the award that the Getty launched in 2013. The prize – a bronze medal with a profile portrait of J. Paul Getty – recognizes lifetime contributions in various art-related fields that are part of the Getty’s mission, including philanthropy, art-history research, archeology and conservation of art and architecture, as well as art-making.

“No one deserves it more than Frank, who effectively redefined contemporary architecture through the use of new technologies,” Getty President James Cuno said.

Gehry will receive the medal at a private dinner at the Getty Center on Sept. 28.

The 2013 medal went to Harold Williams and Nancy Englander, the founding Getty Trust president and executive who laid out its diverse mission and steered it toward building the Getty Center in Brentwood, which opened in 1997. Last year’s winner,...

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Syrian cultural treasures at Palmyra are at risk, says UNESCO

UNESCO is warning that cultural treasures in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra are at great risk following reports that Islamic State forces have taken over the World Heritage site famous for architectural ruins believed to be thousands of years old.

The head of the cultural, scientific and educational division of the United Nations said Wednesday that fighting is endangering one of the most significant sites in the Middle East. "I [call] on the international community to do everything in its power to protect the affected civilian population and safeguard the unique cultural heritage of Palmyra," said Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, in a news release.

On Wednesday, reports from multiple news outlets said that ISIS forces have taken over most if not all of Palmyra -- located in central Syria, northeast of the capital Damascus -- after spending  the past few days closing in on the site.

In recent months, ISIS forces are believed to have destroyed numerous cultural sites throughout...

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Los Angeles Master Chorale picks New York arts leader as president

The Los Angeles Master Chorale, the resident chorus of Walt Disney Concert Hall, announced on Thursday that it has named a new president and chief executive.

Jean Davidson, executive director of New York Live Arts, will replace Terry Knowles, who has been with the Master Chorale for the last 15 years.

"Jean was remarkably impressive throughout our interview process," said David Gindler, chairman of the Master Chorale. "She has a very thoughtful approach to addressing problems and answering questions."

The group chose Davidson after a national search because of her work with top artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Laurie Anderson as well as her track record at New York Live Arts since 2011. Davidson was instrumental in the creation of the group, formed through a merger of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and the Dance Theater Workshop.

Davidson will start at the end of August, as the organization enters its 52nd season and pushes to expand its local and international presence.

"The challenge...

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Money-themed art collection could bring in $93 million

The almighty dollar is the lingua franca of the international art market. But the dollar was also a favorite subject of Andy Warhol and other notable contemporary artists. An upcoming sale from a private collection will seek to wed art and commerce on the glittery altar of the greenback.

A collection of 21 pieces of contemporary art, all depicting the U.S. dollar in some way, is expected to fetch as much as $93 million when it heads to a Sotheby's auction in London on July 1.

The pieces, which come from a single private European collection, include a number of money-themed Warhol works including the artist's 1962 "One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate)," which could sell for as much as $30 million.

Sotheby's said the collection also includes works by Keith Haring, Joseph Beuys and the British art team Tim Noble and Sue Webster. The 21 works are estimated to bring in between $62.8 million and $92.6 million.

A spokesman for the auction house said that art from the collection will go on display...

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