June 20, 2016

MoMA PS1 Extends Free Admission and Adds Seven New Board Members

MoMA PS1

MoMA PS1’s year of free admission for New York City residents has been extended another year, through October 15, 2017, as part of its fortieth anniversary celebrations. The initiative is underwritten by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation and Marina Kellen French.

Additionally, PS1 is adding seven new board members: Maria Arena Bell, Adrian Cheng, George Farias, Svetlana Kuzmicheva-Uspenskaya, Lisa Roumell, Robert Soros, and John L. Thomson.

June 20, 2016

M Lamar Wins Second Edition of Material Art Prize

M Lamar

The visual artist and composer M Lamar has been announced as the winner of the second Material Art Prize, awarded by Material Vodka. Lamar is based in New York City and draws inspiration from Southern gothic traditions, the solemnity of blues, and the political radicalism of punk to address the United States’ history of colonialism and slavery and its lasting influence on gender, class, and race.

The Material Art Prize is awarded biannually to artists working in performance or with “time, body, and experience-based media” and comes with a no-strings-attached cash prize of $2,000. Material Vodka was established to fund noncommercial art practices and ten percent of all profits go toward the Material Art Prize. Recipients are chosen by a panel of judges, including Negar Azimi, Bridget Donahue, Adrienne Edwards, Kathy Halbreich, Adam Pendleton, and Martha Wilson.

June 20, 2016

Three High-Level Employees Leave Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art

In a follow up to a previous announcement that the Metropolitan Museum of Art would be forced to cut jobs due to a $10 million budget deficit, Andrew R. Chow reports in the New York Times that three high-level museum employees, including its first chief digital officer, Sree Sreenivasan, have stepped down from their posts. Sreenivasan has been with the Met for three years and led its recent website redesign and the development of a smartphone app. He will stay on temporarily as a consultant to the Met’s digital team as it focuses on digitizing the collections for a global audience.

The museum’s senior vice president for marketing and external relations, Cynthia Round, and the head of design, Susan Sellers, also resigned. The two most recently worked together on the museum’s rebranding campaign. Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president, said the institution’s goal was to balance its budget within two years: “We’re looking at ways of streamlining our operation . . . Everything we are doing, we will continue to do. But we’ll do it probably a little bit slower.”

These three departures precede what the museum hopes will be a series of voluntary buyouts in order to avoid layoffs. The Met has also paused some renovation projects and introduced a hiring freeze. Though the Met’s exhibition schedule is settled for the next couple of years, Weiss said he could not rule out the possibility of reducing the number of exhibitions at a later date. In the meantime, the museum will continue to pay off debts from infrastructure work.

June 20, 2016

Tamara Chalabi and Paolo Colombo Announced as Curators of Iraqi Pavilion at 2017 Venice Biennale

Tamara Chalabi

The Ruya Foundation has announced that Tamara Chalabi, the chair and cofounder of Ruya, and Paolo Colombo, an art adviser at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, will cocurate Iraq’s pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale opening May 13, 2017. The exhibition will be titled “Archaic” and explore the duality and tension in the concept of the historical or antiquated. It will include ancient artifacts from the region alongside Iraqi examples of modern art and new commissions from Iraqi artists living both in the country and abroad. This is the third time the Ruya Foundation has commissioned Iraq’s pavilion at Venice.

Further details about the pavilion and the artists to be featured will be announced at a later date.

June 17, 2016

University of West Florida Takes Over Pensacola Museum of Art

Pensacola Museum of Art

The board of trustees at the Pensacola Museum of Art has gifted all of its assets to the University of West Florida, according to Thomas St. Myer at the Pensacola News Journal. The decision came after the great success of an exhibition in 2014 titled “The Art of the Brick,” for which the New York–based artist Nathan Sawaya created sculptures out of LEGO bricks, that drew an unprecedented number of attendees.

The president of the Pensacola Museum’s board of trustees Edward Tisdale said of the show’s success: “That kind of shocked us a bit, but we also realized that part of our mission is to reach the community in arts . . . I don’t feel like we were achieving that goal, because a lot of people thought the museum was unapproachable. You couldn’t come into it, you couldn’t go into it. There’s a lot of demographics that would have never stepped into that Museum before ‘Art of the Brick’ came along.” The board has since sought ways to generate the type of capital that exhibition brought and voted to gift all its assets to the university, which will serve as a steward and owner of the museum starting July 1, 2016. Tisdale will continue to chair the board and the university will assume responsibility for growing an endowment and maintaining the art collection, which spans nineteenth- to twenty-first-century works.

June 17, 2016

Romania Raising Funds to Keep Brâncuşi Sculpture in the Country

Constantin Brâncuşi, Wisdom of the Earth, c.1907-1908.

The Guardian reports via the Associated Press in Bucharest that a work by Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi has gone on display at the National Bank of Romania as part of the state’s efforts to raise funds to buy the sculpture from its owner. The sculpture is currently owned by Paula Romascu Ionescu and Alina Serbanescu, descendants of Gheorghe Romascu, a friend of Brâncuşi’s who bought the sculpture in 1911.

Wisdom of the Earth is a twenty-inch-tall sculpture carved from limestone and depicts a female figure sitting with folded arms and her legs pulled up. Priced at about $12.3 million and dating either to 1907 or 1908, it is one of a few Brâncuşi works that remain in his homeland. The Romanian government has pledged about $5.6 million toward its purchase and is seeking the rest via private contributions by September 30. The government’s fund-raising campaign includes a telethon on national television. The Romanian actress Maia Morgenstern, who supports the campaign, said the fund-raising effort was more than an economic endeavor and that Brâncuşi symbolizes “humanity, the values we aspire to.”

In 1903, Brâncuşi emigrated to France, where he lived and worked, but when he wanted to donate all his works to Romania in 1951, the communist authorities refused his offer. The current Romanian government is also seeking to have Brâncuşi’s remains moved from Paris to Romania.

June 17, 2016

University of Notre Dame Sued for Displaying Collection of Early American Art

University of Notre Dame

ABCNews reports via the Associated Press that the University of Notre Dame is displaying a collection valued at about $575,000 of early American art that was stolen from a man twenty years ago, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s son against the university.

Scott Leff and his wife filed the suit last month, accusing the Indiana university of buying his father Jay Leff’s art collection more than a decade ago from a New Mexico dealer who had bought it from Jay’s ex-wife. The woman apparently stole his art collection in 1996 after he filed for divorce, according to the lawsuit. Scott Leff reported the theft to Pittsburgh police that same year, according to a police report included in the lawsuit. Jay Leff was a retired bank president and art collector who died in 2000, and his son is seeking the art’s return or damages equal to its current value.

The university has said in correspondence with Scott Leff that he has no proof of ownership and did nothing to get the art back for twenty years. Dennis Brown, a university spokesman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the school acquired the works in good faith from a reputable seller and is “confident in its ownership of full rightful title” to them.

June 17, 2016

Adjaye Associates to Design New Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art

Rendering of the interior of the new Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art.

Architect David Adjaye’s firm has been chosen to design a new contemporary art museum in Riga, Latvia, according to Dezeen. Adjaye Associates will partner with Latvian team AB3D on its design for the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art. The proposal calls for a building with an angular roof in reference to the traditional wooden houses of Baltic architecture, with steeply pitched roofs designed to support heavy snowfall. The museum’s tilted forms will incorporate north-facing glazing, in order to let light into both small and large galleries. A sloped plaza will serve as a performance area for special events, and a grand concourse inside the museum will feature a cast-concrete waffle structure to ensure strong acoustics.

The main staircase in the building will feature a concrete base with a solid timber guardrail, to match the exterior wood cladding, leading to the galleries, which will be covered in red-stained vertical fins to match the Latvian flag. This will be the first museum of contemporary art to be built in Latvia since the country gained independence, and it will feature art and visual culture from the Baltic Sea region from the 1960s to the present day. The jury that selected Adjaye Associates included OMA partner Reinier de Graaf, Italian architect Gianni Botsford, and Latvian architect Uldis Balodis and was chaired by V&A design director David Bickle. Expected to cost about $33.8 million, the museum will be located in the New Hanza City at the edge of Riga’s Art Nouveau district and is scheduled to open on November 18, 2021. The financing of the project will come from the Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation and the ABLV Charitable Foundation, as well as the Latvian ministry of culture.

Other recent projects for Adjaye Associates include the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, due to open September 24, 2016, in Washington, DC, and the expansion of the Studio Museum in Harlem. They are also finalists in the competition to design Barack Obama’s presidential library in Chicago.

June 17, 2016

England Establishes Its First Union for Artists

Artists Union England representatives at an austerity march in Manchester, UK.

Artists’ Union England (AUE) has been established as the first trade union for visual, applied, and socially engaged artists in England as of June 6, 2016. The group received its certificate of independence from the government, proving that it is a legitimate union free of employers’ influence and that it operates democratically for and on behalf of its professional membership. Their efforts to have the union ratified began in 2013 with a small number of visual artists who noticed that all cultural workers, except for artists, have independent representation from a trade union. As artists in the UK make an average annual income between $7,000 and $12,000 and are often asked to work for free or for “exposure,” they decided to unionize.

It took three years and about $6,400 for certification. The AUE said in a statement: “A new landscape for artists now exists . . . These core workers now have a trade union to represent them, which will work for better pay and conditions across England; where they can work together to challenge exploitative practice, be represented independently and democratically and raise the bar for artists.”

The founding group of artists consists of Angela Kennedy, Sally Sheinman, Katriona Beales, Theresa Easton, Chris Cudlip, Vanessa Maurice-Williams, Hayley Hare, Margareta Kern, Mary Vettise, Bridget Harvey, Donna Cheshire, and Linda Sgoluppi.