August 18, 2017

Philadelphia to Install First Public Statue to Honor an African American

Octavius V. Catto. Photo: Wikipedia

Stephen Salisbury of philly.com reports that the city of Philadelphia will install its first public sculpture honoring the life of an African American. The city’s decision to install the statue follows a growing national protest against public Confederate monuments. The work will be a commemoration of educator, civil rights activist, and ballplayer Octavius V. Catto.

“Philadelphia has more than 1,700 statues on public land, which is more than any other city,” said Murray Dubin, a former Inquirer reporter and author, with colleague Daniel R. Biddle, of Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America (2010). “None of these statues are about named or individual African Americans. None.”

The twelve-foot-tall bronze will be erected next month where Catto was murdered on the southern apron of City Hall. Catto was shot and killed on election day in Philadelphia in 1871 while fighting for black suffrage. Behind the statue there will be five upturned streetcars made of granite. In front of the figure will be a stainless-steel ballot box resting on a table. These elements refer to Catto’s successful campaign to desegregate the city’s horse-drawn streetcars in 1867 and his fight for the ratification of the fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Excerpts from his writings will also be incised on the monument.

August 18, 2017

Gunnar Birkerts (1925–2017)

The Latvian National Library in Riga. Photo: Janis Dripe

Latvian-born architect Gunnar Birkerts, known for his light-filled modernist buildings that reflected the Scandinavian architecture that inspired him, died at his home in Needham, Massachusetts, on Tuesday at the age of ninety-two, William Grimes of the New York Times reports. His passing was confirmed by his son, literary critic Sven Birkerts.

Born in Riga on January 17, 1925, Birkerts, fled Latvia at the end of World War II. He settled in Germany where he attended Stuttgart’s technical university and earned diplomas in engineering and architecture. Birkerts then moved to the United States where he began his career working at the Chicago-based firm Perkins & Will. Two years later, he joined the firm of Scandinavian architect Eero Saarinen where he worked on the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, and the Milwaukee County War Memorial. Birkerts joined firm the Yamasaki, Leinweber & Associates in Birmingham in 1956, and eventually opened his own with colleague Frank Straub in 1959. They designed several projects including the Marathon Oil Building in Detroit before he ended the partnership to start Birkerts & Associates in 1963. He went on to complete a variety of projects including the South Wing addition to the Detroit Institute of Arts and the University of Detroit.

Among his most notable designs are the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, and the University of Michigan’s law library, for which he created an underground addition, completed in 1981, that included a V-shaped glass moat which reflected the building’s Gothic tower allowing it to be seen from fifty-six feet below ground level. In the late 1980s he was commissioned to build the Latvian National Library in Riga. Known as the Castle of Light, the building is topped with a glass pyramid, which references a Latvian folk tale about a castle of light and a glass mountain. In recognition of the project, the American Institute of Architects awarded Birkerts its Library Building Award in 2017, calling the library “a contemporary Modernist masterpiece.”

August 18, 2017

San Diego Art Institute Appoints New Executive Director

Jacqueline Silverman.

The San Diego Art Institute has named Jacqueline Silverman as its new executive director. She took up the post on August 14. “We are delighted with Jacqueline’s appointment,” said board chair Bruce Tall. “She brings us broad expertise in strategic leadership, community engagement, innovative programming, and fund development.”

Silverman is a nonprofit arts management professional who has worked with social service and arts organizations in San Diego, New York, Palm Beach, and Chicago for the past thirty years. She has previously served as executive director of the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture and the San Diego Performing Arts League, and most recently, as interim director of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival. She succeeds Ginger Shulick Porcella, who led the institute since 2014.

August 18, 2017

India Art Fair Names Jagdip Jagpal Director

Jagdip Jagpal.

Neha Kirpal, director, founder, and coowner of the India Art Fair, is handing over the reins to Jagdip Jagpal, Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper reports. Kirpal will still have an active role in the fair and will continue to sit on its board.

“With Jagdip’s strong background in both the commercial and public art sector, she is ideally placed to take the India Art Fair to its next level of potential, in India and beyond,” Kirpal said.

Previously, Jagpal served as a consultant for the New Art Exchange; senior project coordinator at the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Manchester Museum, and the Manchester Art Gallery; and International Program Manager at Tate. Most recently, she worked with New North and South, a network of eleven arts organizations across South Asia and the North of England, on a program of artist commissions and exhibitions. Currently, she is a governor of the London School of Economics and a member of the development board at the Royal College of Art.

August 18, 2017

Members of White House Presidential Arts Commission Resign En Masse

Artist Chuck Close, Lawyer and longtime arts advocate Jill Cooper Udall, architect Thom Mayne, author Jhumpa Lahiri, actor Kalpen Modi (Kal Penn), and musician and founder of Boggs Media, LLC, Paula Boggs.

In protest of President Donald Trump’s response to the deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sixteen members of the Committee on the Arts and Humanities have resigned, Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico reports.

“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” a joint letter released Friday morning reads. “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.”

Signed by Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb,Vicki Kennedy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Kalpen Modi (Kal Penn), Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein, and John Lloyd Young, the letter also criticizes the president’s proposal to defund the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and his decision to pull out of the Paris agreement, ban refugees and people from Muslim-majority countries, attack trans service members, and threaten nuclear war.

August 18, 2017

Chiara Fumai (1978–2017)

Chiara Fumai, Chiara Fumai reads Valerie Solanas, 2012–13.

Italian artist Chiara Fumai, best known for her performative and multimedia works that engage radical feminism, media culture, language, and repression, has died. The thirty-nine-year-old artist was found dead in the Doppelgaenger gallery in Bari, Italy, Antonella Marino of La Reppublica reports. The cause of death may have been an overdose of drugs.

Born in Rome in 1978, Fumai worked as a DJ of underground techno music for many years before she became involved in performance art. She participated in Documenta 13 where she presented The Moral Exhibition House, 2012, a one-hundred-day performance based on Italian radical feminist literature, for which she channeled Annie Jones, the famous “Bearded Lady” of the Victorian era, and freak show performer Zalumma Agrain, and created a fictional campaign for feminist Valerie Solanas’s S.C.U.M. Manifesto. Written in 1967, the manifesto intended to demonstrate men's inferiority. For the performance, Fumai allowed Solanas to take over her body and voice to recite excerpts from her the work. “I believe that living the artwork in a total way is an intense and generous way of staying in the world.”

For Contour 7, the Biennial of Moving Image, Fumai rewrote the story of her live acts into a seance for The Book of Evil Spirits, 2015. Her works have also been exhibited and screened at the 2009 Venice Film Festival; the Jeu de Paume, Paris; the Overgarden Institute of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen; Museon Arts Park, Moscow; the Fiorucci Art Trust, London; MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome; and Mendes Wood DM, So Paulo.

August 18, 2017

World’s First Partition Museum Opens in India

The Partition Museum, housed in the Amritsar Town Hall building.

On Thursday, August 17, the world’s first Partition Museum officially opened to the public, seventy years after the division of Pakistan and India at the close of the British Empire. Located in the Indian border city of Amritsar, the seventeen-thousand-square-feet colonial-style Town Hall acquired its collection, comprising personal items from the approximately fourteen million people that were displaced, from the families of those affected by the largest mass migration in history, Tim Cornwell of the Art Newspaper reports.

The London School of Economics and the University of Cambridge have assisted the museum with curatorial work and gave access to key colonial-era documents in the collections of the British Library and the National Archives. The museum staff members finalized exhibitions for the museum’s official inauguration just two days after India’s Independence Day.

The museum’s building, provided by the Punjab government, is now declared part of Heritage Street, a remodeled stretch connected to the Golden Temple complex, Sikhism’s holiest site. Within it are fourteen galleries, which present stories from the period, including how the spread of cholera, hunger, and monsoon rains caused the deaths of up to two million people. Among the artworks currently on view are sketches and sculptures by Sardari Lal Parasher, a former refugee camp commander and vice principal of Lahore’s Mayo School of Arts (now Pakistan’s National College of Arts).

August 17, 2017

Brooklyn Museum Announces Curatorial Appointments

Ashley James and Aysin Yoltar-Yildirim.

The Brooklyn Museum has announced two recent curatorial appointments. Aysin Yoltar-Yildirim joined the museum as associate curator of Islamic art on July 17. She will soon begin work on the reinstallation of the Middle East galleries. Ashley James took up the post of assistant curator of contemporary art on June 26, and will be the institution’s lead on the upcoming exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, 1963–83,” organized by Tate Modern London, where it will be on view until October 22.

The museum also established two newly-funded curatorial positions: the Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Curator of Photography and the Sills Family Consulting Curator, African Art. “We are extremely thankful to Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian, and to the Sills Family,” said museum director Anne Pasternak. “The growth of our curatorial staff would not be possible without their generosity.” The search for these two positions will begin in the coming months.

August 17, 2017

55th New York Film Festival Reveals Lineup for Projections

Still from Nel Beloufa’s Occidental, 2017.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced the lineup for the Projections section of its Fifty-Fifth New York Film Festival, which will take place from October 6 to October 9. It is made up of fifty-one experimental moving image works—eight features and eight shorts programs—that draw on a broad range of innovative modes and techniques such as experimental narratives, avant-garde poetics, crossovers into documentary and ethnographic realms, and contemporary art practices.

“Projections is the New York Film Festival’s home for adventurous work, and our 2017 lineup attests to the sheer number and variety of ways in which our most vital artists are exploring the possibilities of cinematic language,” said Dennis Lim, FSLC director of programming and one of the curators of Projections.

Among the highlights of the festival are the debuts of several visual artists, including Xu Bing’s Dragonfly Eyes, winner of the International Critics Prize at the recent Locarno Film Festival; Nel Beloufa’s Occidental; and mid-length works Rubber Coated Steel by Lawrence Abu Hamdan and The Welfare of Toms Hallissy by Duncan Campbell. Zhou Tao’s The Worldly Cave, which was included in this year’s Venice Biennial, will make its North American premiere, as will Jaakko Pallasvuo’s Filter.