Art world rallies to support indicted artist Steven Kurtz


On May 11, 2004 Kurtz awoke to find his wife dead. After emergency workers arrived, they discovered what they considered to be suspicious items and called in the FBI. Invoking the USA Patriot Act, which grants the federal government unprecedented search and-seizure powers, federal agents detained Kurtz for 22 hours; they searched his home for two days, as well as his office at SUNY-Buffalo, where he is a faculty member. The bureau confiscated his wife’s body, his house, car, equipment, computer hard drive, books, writings, correspondence, art projects and other items, even his cat.

Kurtz’s hearing has been set for March 1, 2005. He currently faces charges totaling more than 20 years in prison.

Auction of work by major artists to benefit CAE Defense Fund.

An April 17 auction to benefit the Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund has attracted donations from some of the biggest names in the contemporary art world, including Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Alexis Rockman, Rubn Ortiz Torres, Hans Haacke, Kiki Smith, Chris Burden, and a great many others.

Organizers of the auction at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York expect to raise at least a six-figure sum to help Steven Kurtz and Robert Ferrell defend themselves against politically-motivated federal charges of "mail fraud" and "wire fraud." If convicted, Kurtz, a founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and Professor of Art at the University of Buffalo, and Ferrell, a Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, could face up to 20 years in prison. (See the CAE site for full details.)

The cost of the May 2004 raid on Kurtz’s home, and his subsequent prosecution, is in the millions of public dollars, according to independent estimates. The federal authorities now admit that Kurtz and Ferrell, who have collaborated on widely shown artworks about biotechnology, have never posed any danger to public health – yet they continue to waste vast sums of public money prosecuting the case. Meanwhile, the bills for Kurtz and Ferrell’s defense keep growing as well.

Since June 2004 there have been numerous public events to support the CAE Defense Fund in the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Latin America and Australia. These efforts, as well as numerous individual contributions, have met the mounting defense costs thus far. But as the case moves to trial, Kurtz and Ferrell’s expenses are expected to increase dramatically, and more fundraisers and donations will be needed.

The April 17 auction organizers hope the auction will serve as a spur for people worldwide to organize new benefit events and to contribute to the fund. Please visit for details on how you can help publicize the auction, organize your own event, donate, or otherwise help support Kurtz and Ferrell in this exceedingly important case.

Auction details:
Sunday, April 17, 2005
2:00-5:00 PM viewing, 5:00-7:00 PM auction
Paula Cooper Gallery
534 West 21st Street
New York

Artists who have donated work for the auction: Acconci Studio, Dennis Adams, The Atlas Group, Nayland Blake, Mel Bochner, Chris Burden, Paul Chan, Jeremy Deller, Mark Dion, Sam Durant, Tony Feher, Andrea Fraser, Joseph Grigely, Hans Haacke, Ann Hamilton, Rachel Harrison, Mike Kelley, William Pope L., Louise Lawler, Zoe Leonard, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, Sharon Lockhart, Allan McCollum, Julie Mehretu, Donald Moffett, Dave Muller, Vic Muniz, Yoshitomo Nara, Cathy Opie, Rubn Ortiz Torres, Laura Owens, David Reed, Alexis Rockman, Martha Rosler, Christy Rupp, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Amy Sillman, Lorna Simpson, Kiki Smith, Janaina Tschape and many more.

The Benefit is sponsored by the National Association of Artists’ Organizations (NAAO) and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (Buffalo), and is supported by galleries across the US.

Please visit for more information. Press inquiries may be directed to

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