Winners of the 21st Annual Herb Alpert Awards Announced

Tania Bruguera.

The Herb Alpert Foundation and California Institute of the Arts will give the twenty-first annual Herb Alpert Award in the Arts to five midcareer artists in Santa Monica this afternoon. The winners this year are Maria Hassabi in the dance category; Sharon Lockhart for film/video; Julia Wolfe for music; Taylor Mac in theater; and Tania Bruguera for visual arts. Each artist will receive a prize of $75,000.

Herb Alpert said of the 2015 HAAIA winners, “It’s exciting to be able to support these five unique artists who are always on the hunt for something they don’t yet know, something real that touches us in a deep place . . . . They have to make art not just for themselves … but for all of us.”

CalArts has administered the awards since the Herb Alpert Foundation first started giving them in 1994. The panelists for the awards this year included Julia Bryan-Wilson, Christine Y. Kim, Pablo de Ocampo, and Bonnie Brooks.

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August 16, 2017

London’s Garden Bridge Venture Jettisoned After $48 Million Thrown into Project

A digital rendering of the Garden Bridge. Image: ARUP.

Despite $48 million of public funding already spent on the Thomas Heatherwick–designed Garden Bridge project—a plan for a green pedestrian thoroughfare that was supposed to connect the north and south banks of London’s River Thames—the venture is officially being jettisoned, writes Roslyn Sulcas of the New York Times. The city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who inherited the scheme from his predecessor Boris Johnson, refused to put aside money for the bridge’s annual maintenance costs, which would have amounted up to $4 million. Mervyn Davies, the chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, said that Khan’s unwillingness to fully embrace the project, which in total was estimated to cost $260 million, had made it impossible to secure the necessary funding for the plan to continue. Khan was against the Garden Bridge idea well before assuming his mayoral post.

The idea for the bridge first came from the actress Joanna Lumley, who received Johnson’s support in 2012. The chancellor of the exchequer at that time, George Osborne, then put aside $78 million of public money for it. The remainder of the project’s costs was to be brought in from corporations and other various benefactors. But a review to determine whether or not the bridge was worth any more financial support from the government, ordered by Khan last September, concluded that it indeed did not, and recommended that the project be shut down.

The design called for 270 trees and more than 100,000 different plants to fill the 1,200-foot-long bridge. “The Garden Bridge would have been a unique place; a beautiful new green space in the heart of London, free to use and open to all, showcasing the best of British talent and innovation. It is a sad day for London because it is sending out a message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects,” said Davies in a letter to the mayor. Tom Edwards, however—the transport correspondent for the BBC—wrote on the network’s website: “This shambles is an embarrassing mess for the capital and it has already descended into finger pointing and a blame game over who is culpable for wasting . . . public money.”

August 16, 2017

Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Unit En Route to Shutdown

New Scotland Yard

Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper reports that Scotland Yard’s art and antiquities unit is on its way to being shut down. The three officers on the team—Sophie Hayes, Philip Clare, and Ray Swan—have been assigned to aid the Metropolitan Police investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire that took place on June 14, 2017, which killed more than eighty people, including the young artist Khadija Saye. Vernon Rapley, the head of the unit from 2001 until 2010, said that he is “worried that the closure of the unit is now being considered. I am very concerned that the Metropolitan Police is unable to give assurances on when the three detectives who have been temporarily reassigned will be returned to the unit.” Claire Hutcheon, the detective sergeant who oversaw the team, left last year and has not been replaced.

The art and antiques unit was founded in 1969. Its London Stolen Art Database, which contains information on 54,000 looted items, is the world’s most valuable national police register of art, second only to that of Italy’s Carabinieri.

A representative for the Metropolitan Police said that Hayes, Clare, and Swan have only temporarily been transferred to the Grenfell Tower case, which he said is “one of the largest in the Met’s history and involves the use of detectives from a range of different units.” He also went on to say that Scotland Yard is “maintaining ongoing relationships with key partners in this interim period and will continue to investigate any allegations of crime relating to art or antiques.” When asked for a guarantee that the unit will indeed not be dissolved, the spokesman restated that the trio of detectives has been “temporarily transferred to the fire investigation.”

August 16, 2017

Artist Advocacy Group Launches Boot Camp to Help Artists Run for Office

The Make America Great Again billboard along Highway 80 in Pearl, Mississippi, by For Freedoms, the first artist-run Super PAC and one of a number of arts organizations working with the Artist Campaign School. Photo: Wyatt Gallery

The New York–based arts advocacy group Fractured Atlas has launched a new initiative that aims to help artists learn the skills necessary to run a successful political campaign, Isaac Kaplan of Artsy reports. The nonpartisan Artist Campaign School aims to encourage more artists to run for public office. Around one hundred creatives will be invited to attend free classes in Detroit this October where they will learn how to fundraise, build a staff, communicate with the media, and write policy, among other things.

“I think artists are actually perfect politicians,” said Lauren Ruffinm, the vice president for external affairs at Fractured Atlas and the brains behind the project. According to Ruffinm, who realized the need for such an initiative during the 2016 presidential campaign, many artists are already equipped for a political career path. They are creative thinkers, problem solvers, and able to work collaboratively to realize projects. While programming for the school is still in its early stages, Ruffinm hopes to involve artists who have served as politicians in the training. Short-term goals of the school include flooding low-level positions with candidates.

The project received twenty-seven applications since its website went live last Friday. The accepted applicants will also be asked to work together to build a platform on affordable housing, healthcare, or arts in education. “You’re fed up. You want to get involved. We hear you,” the school’s website reads. “Whether it’s for the school board or Senate, learn what it takes.”

August 15, 2017

Tshiamo Naledi Letlhogonolo Pinky Mayeng (1993–2017)

Tshiamo Naledi Letlhogonolo Pinky Mayeng

Tshiamo Naledi Letlhogonolo Pinky Mayeng, a member of the female South African artist collective iQhiya, died on August 13, 2017.

“It is with great sadness and our deepest sorrow that we inform you of the passing of our beloved,” said the group in a recent Facebook post. “Her openness to the world touched the hearts of everyone she met. She was an artist, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, lover, and a mother to Neox the cat. Although she was the youngest member of the collective, she was fiercely independent and strong willed.”

A memorial service is scheduled to take place on August 21 from 5:30 to 6 PM at the A4 Arts Foundation on Twenty-Three Buitenkant Street in Cape Town. Donations to the artist’s family can be made at the memorial.

August 15, 2017

Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art Announces New Staff Appointments

The National Gallery of Art’s main facade.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, has announced several new staff appointments in its library, gallery archives, and publishing office, in addition to curatorial promotions.

Molly Donovan has been named curator of art, 1975–present, and will be responsible for building the gallery’s contemporary art holdings and nurturing relationships with living artists. She will lead an upcoming Rachel Whiteread exhibition. Kimberly Jones is now curator of nineteenth-century French paintings, appointed for her expertise on several international projects, including a traveling retrospective on Frédéric Bazille. James Meyer, previously the chief curator and deputy director at Dia Art Foundation, has returned to the gallery as curator of art, 1945–1974. While at the gallery, before Dia, Meyer was the associate curator of modern art and aided in the acquisition of Virginia Dwan’s collection and archives, which were featured in his exhibition on the history of Dwan Gallery (examined by Thomas Crow in Artforum’s summer issue). Diane Waggoner was named curator of nineteenth-century photographs for her scholarship and exhibitions on British and American photography. And, for his outstanding work in modern art, curator and head of modern art Harry Cooper has been named senior curator of modern art.

August 15, 2017

Russian Government Confiscates Gogol Theater Director’s Passport

Kirill Serebrennikov. Photo: British Council Russia / Flickr.

Kirill Serebrennikov, the director of Moscow’s Gogol Theater who was accused of embezzling government funds and whose ballet about Rudolf Nureyev was shut down by the Bolshoi Theater, has had his passport confiscated by Russian authorities, reports the Moscow Times. “I am stripped of my passport. I can’t leave anymore,” said Serebrennikov in an interview with a German newspaper last week. He might not be able to attend a production of Hansel and Gretel he’s directing in Stuttgart in September.

A request for details on Serebrennikov’s plight from the RBC news group to the Russian Interior Ministry has yet to be answered. Last Friday, the Interfax news agency spoke to an anonymous source close to the director who said that investigators took his passport in May during raids at his home and the Gogol Theater, events spurred by the embezzlement case. The source said investigators are claiming they need the passport to “establish its authenticity,” adding, “These investigative measures are just a pretense to keep the director from traveling abroad.”

August 15, 2017

David Roberts to Close London Gallery and Open Sculpture Park in Somerset

David Roberts. Photo: Billie Scheepers.

The David Roberts Art Foundation in London, founded in 2012, will be closing after “(X) A Fantasy,” which opens September 8 and runs until October 7, 2017, according to Gareth Harris of the Art Newspaper. David Roberts, the gallery’s founder, will then open a twenty-acre sculpture park in Somerset, West England. The gallery’s final exhibition will feature works from Danh Vo and Theaster Gates.

In 2015 the foundation added a “live projects” space for performances, with support by Arts Council England. The performances will continue at different venues throughout London. Commissioned pieces by DJ Nkisi and Laure Prouvost will be presented at the Camden music theater Koko, via DRAF, on October 3. “We’ll still continue to do things in London, like the Koko event. And we are looking to do more regionally; I’m a big admirer of the Artist Rooms initiative. The sale of the London venue, which is funded mainly by me, means we can take on more projects,” said Roberts.

The sculpture garden is scheduled to open in 2019 on Somerlea Farm in Charlton Musgrove, once it is approved by the local council. Roberts’s new project will be free to the public and will showcase works from his collection by artists such as Sarah Lucas, Hans Josephsohn, and Kris Martin. “The property in Somerset will be noncommercial. We will show things from the collection there, and start new projects. We hope to attract a wider audience in Somerset; we think we’ll have more visitors there than in London. We don’t get huge numbers of people through the door in Camden,” Roberts says.

August 15, 2017

Block Museum of Art Receives $1 Million Gift

Steven and Lisa Tananbaum.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Lisa and Steven Tananbaum have given Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art a $1 million gift. This will allow the institution to expand its programming and permanently establish the position of the Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. The post will be filled by Janet Dees, who came to the Block Museum in 2015 after serving as the Eugene Thaw Curatorial Fellow, assistant curator, and later curator of contemporary art at SITE Santa Fe. Dees organized the Block’s “If You Remember, I’ll Remember” exhibition from earlier this year. She is preparing “Experiments in Form: Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, Frank Stella” for the museum in 2018.

“The Tananbaums’ gift will help advance our capacity to present major exhibitions and to commission new work by artists working internationally who will be invited to campus to interact with faculty and students and be nourished by the extraordinary resources of Northwestern. Our faculty and students across the university are extremely enthusiastic about engaging with artists and the creative process. The Block’s contemporary program is also adding to the vibrancy of Chicago’s cultural scene,” said Lisa Corrin, the Block Museum’s Ellen Philip Katz Director.

The Tananbaums have a major collection of postwar and contemporary art, with pieces by Brice Marden, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, and Andreas Gursky. They are also benefactors of a number of different institutions, such as New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

August 15, 2017

Stolen de Kooning Returned to Arizona Museum After Thirty-Two Years

University of Arizona Museum of Art staff holding the recovered de Kooning. Photo: University of Arizona.

A Willem de Kooning painting titled Woman-Ochre, 1954–55, which had been stolen from the University of Arizona Museum of Art thirty-two years ago, has finally been returned. The work was found by David Van Auker, the proprietor of Manzanita Ridge Furniture & Antiques in Silver City, New Mexico, when he was contacted about buying out the furnishings of a nearby home where the painting was located, writes Helen Stoilas of the Art Newspaper. The de Kooning was hidden within a bedroom. Van Auker purchased the contents of the home for $2,000. Customers to his shop said the work looked like a de Kooning—one man even offered to buy it for $200,000. But after Van Auker did some research, he found the piece matched the one lifted from the museum. He contacted the institution and the FBI in order to give it back. “This is a monumental moment for the museum. We are thrilled at the possibility that this work could once again be on exhibit in our galleries,” said Meg Hagyard, the museum’s director.

Jerry and Rita Alter, a quiet couple who enjoyed culture and liked to travel, owned the house where the painting was located. Ronny Roseman—the couple’s nephew and the executor of the their estate—said that he had “been informed by the authorities not to discuss the estate.” Van Auker believes the work never left the home after the theft: “When you purchase an estate like that, you sort of get to know the people, because you’re going through their papers and their medicine cabinets. I just had the feeling, that it went from here to there and never moved. I could be wrong.” Another modernist work from the Alters’ collection is currently being investigated.

The museum said the theft occurred at 9 AM on November 29, 1985, when a man and a woman followed a staff member into the building. In a statement, the museum said, “The man wandered up to the second floor while the woman chatted with a security guard. The man spent just under ten minutes on the second floor, cutting Woman-Ochre out of its wood frame with a sharp blade. Leaving remnants of the painting’s canvas edges behind, the man slipped the painting under a garment, walked back down the stairs and reunited with his accomplice. The two hurried out of the museum and never returned. The heist took no more than fifteen minutes.”