The Los Angeles Times’ Carolyn Kellogg reports that author, poet, playwright, and activist Amiri Baraka has passed away. His death was confirmed by a family spokesperson. Born Everett LeRoi Jones, Baraka moved to New York after serving in the Air Force (where he was honorably discharged for reading Communist texts), and in 1958 founded Yugen, an avant-garde poetry magazine that published works by poets including William S. Burroughs and Frank O’Hara. He also coedited Floating Bear, a literary newsletter, and wrote Dutchman, which received an Obie for Best American Play in 1964. Beginning in 1965, he spearheaded the Black Arts Movement, an artistic branch that was aligned with the Black Power movement and that involved others including Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou. Speaking about the Black Arts Movement, Baraka said: “We wrote art that was, number one, identifiably Afro American according to our roots and our history and so forth. Secondly, we made art that was not contained in small venues.”
Baraka taught at a number of universities, including the State University of New York-Stony Brook, as well as Rutgers, George Washington University, and Yale. As New Jersey’s poet laureate, he wrote a racially charged poem about September 11 that generated controversy for lines considered anti-Semitic. In his lifetime, Baraka won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and was recognized with a PEN/Faulkner award, a Rockefeller Foundation award for drama, and the Langston Hughes award from the City College of New York.
Kristian Anderson has been named executive director of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. Anderson most recently acted as director of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, a national organization that specializes in education and advocacy for museums. He has also run contemporary art spaces at the University of Washington and the University of Colorado. Said interim director Maggie Willis: “Kristian is just what the museum needs to move forward in its path of excellence. He is a true visionary, an accomplished director and administrator, and is committed to the success of the museum and contemporary art in this region. He comes with great praise, nationally, and we are incredibly fortunate to welcome him into the community.”
Henriette Huldisch has been appointed curator of the MIT List Visual Arts Center. Huldisch is currently curator at the Hamburger Bahnhof, a role she assumed in 2010; notable exhibitions she organized include a show of Harun Farocki, “Anthony McCall: Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture” and “Body Pressure: Sculpture since the 1960s,” which she cocurated with Lisa Marei Schmidt. Prior to this, she spent seven years at the Whitney Museum of American Art where, as an assistant curator, Huldisch worked Shamim Momin to organize the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Said director Paul C. Ha: “I am delighted that Henriette is joining the MIT List Visual Arts Center as our new curator. She is recognized among our peers as an exceptional leader and has demonstrated great ability to mentor staff, engage donors, and be accessible to the public. I look forward to Henriette, alongside our current staff members, developing the artistic vision of the institution and helping realize support from donors.”
Robert A.M. Stern and Frank Gehry have joined a league of architects in protest against the Museum of Modern Art’s decision to raze the former Folk Art Museum, destroying a building that many believe to be of great historic and artistic import. “Justice has not been served,” said Stern. “It’s a work of art, especially the façade.” The building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, opened in 2001 and features a striking bronze façade. Gehry commented that the destruction is “devastating . . . . We all loved it when it was done; it was a major piece of architecture on the street. I think Billie and Tod deserve a major project in New York City, and let’s get it for them and get on with it. That will get them their dignity back.”
New York writers unleashed more ardent criticism following MoMA’s announcement on Thursday: “A city that allows such a work to disappear after barely a dozen years is a city with a flawed architectural heart,” commented Vanity Fair’s Paul Goldberger. Jerry Saltz declared that he has witnessed “the best modern museum of my generation destroyed by madness. Goodbye, MoMA. I loved you.” Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times reports that MoMA launched “a public-relations offensive this week that included detailed briefings for journalists.” The museum has subsequently declined to comment on these reactions.
Andrea Fiuczynski will leave Christie’s after twenty-eight years to assume the role of Sotheby’s chairman of West Coast operations, effective February 1. Since 2001, she has acted as president of Christie’s in Los Angeles, and Carol Vogel of the New York Times reports she is the fourth “important business getter to leave in less than a year.” Her departure follows that of Ken Yeh, who left for Acquavella Galleries, Joshua Holdeman, who assumed the role of vice chairman at Sotheby’s, and Amy Cappellazzo, who resigned to embark on a private venture. Said Fiuczynski: “The scope of the challenge and the job is bigger [at Sotheby’s].”
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has received a gift of artworks that will, according to director Timothy Rub, transform its contemporary collection, making it among the most significant in the country. Assessed at nearly $70 million, the bestowal comes from its longtime supporters, collectors Keith L. Sachsa trustee of the museum and former chief executive of Saxco Internationaland his wife Katherine, who has acted in a variety of roles at the institution, including adjunct curator.
Carol Vogel of the New York Times reports that the gift includes ninety-seven works that will “fill crucial gaps in the museum’s holdings.” Major pieces by Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, and Gerhard Richter are included as well a spate of video works by Allora & Calzadilla, Francis Al˙s, Pierre Huyghe, Steve McQueen, Eve Sussman, and Bill Viola. Also included are sculptures by John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, Cy Twombly, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, and Robert Gober and photographs by Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto among others. The museum will name its modern and contemporary galleries after the couple and has slated an exhibition of the collection for the summer of 2016. The gift follows the board’s endorsement of a Frank Gehry renovation for the museum, which will add approximately 223,000 square feet of gallery space.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Herzog & de Meuron, KPMB Architects, SANAA, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects are the five firms in the running to design the Vancouver Art Gallery’s new museum buildingthe shortlist was announced today. Said board chairman Bruce Munro Wright: “The architects collectively reflect the global aspirations and achievements of our museum. Each firm we selected is recognized for innovation and excellence in creating new spaces for engagement with arts and culture, and each demonstrated a strong and creative architectural vision that would support our mission and enhance Vancouver’s standing as one of the most exciting international centers of cultural production.” The new building will substantially expand the international reach and range of the museum’s mission and program and will provide, in addition to larger galleries, indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces as well as new educational facilities that will allow the museum to increase its educational and public programs.
Jeffrey Uslip has been named chief curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Since 2010, Uslip has acted as curator-at-large at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, where he organized shows with Joyce Pensato and Agnes Denes among others; he is also a doctoral candidate at New York University. Uslip will assume his new role this Friday. Andrew Russeth of the New York Observer reports the Uslip has already planned exhibitions at the museum that include Kelley Walker’s first career survey in the United States and a solo exhibition featuring Mark Flood.
Robin Pogrebin reports in the New York Times that the Museum of Modern Art in New York today unveiled new plans for its midtown Manhattan building created by architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro. As part of the museum’s redesign, the architects plan to use the site currently occupied by the American Folk Art Museum to create a ground-floor exhibition and performance space they refer to as the Art Bay, which will have as its façade a retractable sheet of glass that’ll allow the museum to open into the street.
As might be expected, the museum’s decisions to redesign its building and to raze the next-door Folk Art Museum encroach on sensitive territory: As Elizabeth Diller, one of the architectural firm’s principals, noted, “It’s very hard to make peace with yourself, to advocate for taking down a building that’s only twelve years old.” MoMA’s director, Glenn Lowry, had notified Yoshio Taniguchi—architect of the museum’s last overhaul in 2004—about the planned changes. Meanwhile, the Folk Art Museum’s architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, registered their dissatisfaction with MoMA’s plan to raze their designs. “This action represents a missed opportunity to find new life and purpose for a building that is meaningful to so many,” the architects said. “The inability to experience the building firsthand and to appreciate its meaning from an historical perspective will be profoundly felt.”
MoMA plans to begin construction on its new building this summer, and aims to finish the project in 2018 or 2019. Renderings of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s redesign can be found here.