Sharjah Biennial Artists Pen Open Letter in Support of Artists Denied Entry to UAE

Sharjah Biennial.

Mostafa Heddaya reports at Artinfo that participants in the twelfth Sharjah Biennial have issued an open letter to cultural institutions and authorities in the United Arab Emirates expressing their support for artists Ashok Sukumaran and Walid Raad, who were both recently denied entry to the country after attempting to travel there for a conference associated with the biennial. Both artists are members of Gulf Labor, an activist group concerned with workers’ rights on Saadiyat Island in the UAE.

The letter was signed by forty-four of the fifty-five biennial artists and collectives and includes the follow statement, “We feel that the work done by the Gulf Labor Artist Coalition is important and that transparency and dialog are essential to ensure that globalised cultural institutions like the Guggenheim, the Louvre and NYU are expanding responsibly, sustainably and without labor exploitation.” The signatories also “urge authorities in the UAE to lift entry restrictions for Ashok Sukumaran, Walid Raad, and Andrew Ross.” A full list of signatories and the entire open letter can be read here.


August 21, 2017

Alt-Right Politician Protests Kassel’s Acquisition of Documenta 14 Artwork

Olu Oguibe, Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge (Monument for Strangers and Refugees), 2017.

Kassel city councilman Thomas Materner, who is a member of AfD—a xenophobic nationalist political group—has threatened to organize a wave of protests at Olu Oguibe’s Documenta 14 work, an obelisk dedicated to refugees, should the city choose to acquire it, Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeine reports.

Materner used language similar to the Nazi regime, who adopted the term “degenerate art” to describe modernist works, when he called the monument “ideologically polarizing, deformed art.” While discussing the acquisition of Documenta 14 artworks at a city council meeting, he said the AfD party will call for people to demonstrate in front of the piece “after each terrorist attack carried out by an immigrant.”

In response, Documenta 14’s artistic director, Adam Szymczyk, said he was “horrified” by Materner’s words about the piece. Titled, Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge (Monument for Strangers and Refugees), the nearly fifty-three-foot work features a verse from Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you took me in,” written in gold lettering in four different languages: German, English, Arabic, and Turkish. In a statement issued to Artnet, Szymczyk said, “I see no way how this quote from the New Testament should be read as divisive or controversial. It is simply human. In the history of the square, the reference to the difficult condition of being a stranger—or being taken for one, which is one and the same thing—appears as early as in Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s “Campagne in Frankreich 1792.”

August 21, 2017

Ramon Boixados Malé (1927–2017)

Ramon Boixados Malé.

President of the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation Ramon Boixados Malé has died. The foundation’s board of trustees and executive committee confirmed the eighty-nine-year old’s passing in a statement that was released on Saturday, August 12, which called his death an “irreparable loss.”

Malé joined the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation as president in 1991. Under his leadership, he developed its reputation as a worldwide referential institution for the management and defense of the legacy of Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. On July 20, in order to comply with a court order, after a woman claiming to be the artist’s daughter won the right to a paternity test, the foundation successfully exhumed Dalí’s body from his crypt below the theater and museum, which he designed, in his hometown of Figueres, Spain.

A successful businessman, Malé was president of Renfe, the national railways of Spain, from 1983 to 1985, and also served as the head of a variety of companies such as Ibermutuamur; Exel logistics (Iberia) Group, S.L.; and Cálculo y Tratamiento de la Información, S.A. He worked as the general coordinator for the construction of the Olympic Games of Barcelona from 1989 to 1992, and as the managing director of Vila Olímpica, S.A. from 1986 to 1992. He was a trustee of the Olympic Museum of Lausanne, and a member of the board of directors at Hewlett Packard Iberia, the Madrid Palace Hotel, Hotel Ritz Madrid, and Fecsa, among others.

August 21, 2017

Wang Bing Wins Golden Leopard Award at Seventieth Locarno Film Festival

Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing. Photo: Locarno Festival

Chinese director Wang Bing was presented with the prestigious Golden Leopard award at the Seventieth Locarno Film Festival last week in Switzerland, Je-Seung Lee of ArtAsiaPacific reports. He was honored with the top prize for his ninety-minute documentary film Mrs.Fang (2017), which tells the story of an elderly sexagenarian woman who lives in a small southern Chinese fishing village and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The work was screened at Documenta 14 in Kassel earlier this year.

Established in 1946, the Locarno Film Festival is one of the longest-running film festivals in the world. Wang Bing is the fifth Chinese director in the film festival’s history to receive a Golden Leopard. This year’s judging committee was led by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas.

In April, Wang Bing was awarded the third EYE Art and Film Prize in Amsterdam, and in 2012, he was honored with the Orizzonti Best Feature Prize for his documentary film Three Sisters (2012) at the Sixty-Ninth Venice International Film Festival. Wang Bing is best known for making works that experiment with narrative structures and telling Chinese stories that chronicle the lives of the poor and disenfranchised.

August 21, 2017

Hammer Names Associate Director and Senior Curator of Grunwald Center for Graphic Arts

Allegra Pesenti.

The Hammer Museum announced today that Allegra Pesenti has been appointed as the new associate director and senior curator of the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts. Pesenti returns to the museum where she had previously served as the center’s curator from 2007 to 2013.

“Her expertise in works on paper is a tremendous asset to the Grunwald Center, one of the country’s finest collections of prints, photographs, and artists’ books,” Hammer director Ann Philbin said. “We are particularly looking forward to the exhibition of Victor Hugo’s drawings that she is organizing with Cynthia Burlingham.”

During her seven-year tenure at the Hammer, Pesenti organized a series of major exhibitions including “Gouge: The Modern Woodcut 1870 to Now” (2008–09), “Rachel Whiteread Drawings” (2010), “Zarina: Paper like Skin” (2012), “Enrico David” (2013), and four installations of the museum’s Houseguest series. After the Hammer, she served as chief curator for the Menil Drawing Institute then as curator at large for the Menil Collection until July 2016. During her time there, she worked closely with Los Angeles–based architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee on the conception and design of the Menil Drawing Institute, the first freestanding center in America devoted solely to the collecting, research, conservation, and exhibition of works on paper.

August 21, 2017

ICC Orders Jihadist to Pay $3.2 Million in Reparations for Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Two tombs at the ancient Djinguereber mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, were damaged in an attack by Islamist extremists in 2012. Photo: Joe Penney/Reuters

The International Criminal Court ruled on Thursday, August 17, that Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a member of a jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda, must pay $3.2 million in damages for destroying ancient shrines and damaging a mosque in Timbuktu, Marlise Simons of the New York Times reports.

Al-Mahdi was arrested in Niger in 2013 after French-led military troops recaptured Timbuktu. In 2016, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison in a landmark ruling. The trial marked the first time that The Hague treated the destruction of cultural property as a war crime.

Since Mahdi is penniless, the judges asked the court’s Trust Fund for Victims to pay the actual reparations, and declared that it will cover structural damages, economic losses suffered by the local residents, and possibly a memorial or community program.

August 18, 2017

Philadelphia to Install First Public Statue to Honor an African American

Octavius V. Catto. Photo: Wikipedia

Stephen Salisbury of 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.