National Medal of Arts Awardees Include John Baldessari, Ann Hamilton

Ann Hamilton, corpus, 2003-2004

Among the eleven recipients of this year’s National Medal of Arts are artists John Baldessari, Ping Chong, Meredith Monk, and Ann Hamilton, reports the Los Angeles Times’ David Ng. The other winners are tenor George Shirley, actresses Sally Field and Miriam Colon, and writers Stephen King and Tobias Wolff. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the University Musical Society (a Michigan performing arts group) will also be recognized.

Hamilton was cited for work that “demonstrates the importance of experiencing the arts first-hand in the digital age.” Monk was recognized as a musician who has “reimagined the instrument of voice with her innovative work.”

Chong was praised for work that explores “race, history, technology, and art to challenge our understanding of humanity in the modern world.” And of Baldessari, the NEA said, “His ambitious work combines photography, painting, and text to push the boundaries of image, making him one of the most influential conceptual artists of our time.”

President Obama will present the awards in a White House ceremony later this month.


November 24, 2017

Albert C. Ledner (1924–2017)

Albert C. Ledner. Courtesy: Catherine Ledner

Architect Albert C. Ledner, known for his modernist buildings which often incorporated playful design elements such as portholes and ashtrays, has died in Manchester, New Hampshire, on November 13. The ninety-three-year old designed over forty projects in New Orleans, where he was raised, as well as the three National Maritime Union buildings in New York (recognized today as the Mack Pavilion of Lenox Hill Hospital Center, Dream Downtown Hotel, and Maritime Hotel), which incorporated details that referenced the union’s nautical ties.

Born in the Bronx on January 28, 1924, Ledner graduated from the Tulane School of Architecture and then worked as an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright for several years. The positive press he received after he designed his first house in 1951—it was featured in House Beautiful—helped advance his career. For most of his profession, he was not part of an architectural firm, which gave him more freedom stylistically to create free-flowing spaces that were not as sober as other modernist structures. The Galatoire House in New Orleans, is a perfect example of this: It combined the geometric and material tenets of modern architecture with convent windows from 1866, some of which were installed upside-down.

Reusing items or salvaging was another method Ledner incorporated into his innovative work. “I was really lucky, very lucky, to have clients that were very open-minded,” said Lerner in a new documentary by his daughter Catherine Ledner and nephew Roy Beeson called Designing Life: The Modernist Architecture of Albert C. Ledner. Captured by a smoking couple’s amber ashtrays, Ledner integrated them into the design of their home. Known as the Ashtray House, the building had 1,200 of the ashtrays lining its roof.



November 24, 2017

Li Ming Wins 2017 Hugo Boss Asia Award

Li Ming.

This year’s Hugo Boss Asia Art Award went to Hangzhou-based artist Li Ming. He was chosen through an exhibition at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, which featured the work of three other finalists: Tao Hui, Yu Ji and Robert Zhao Renhui. A $45,600 cash prize was presented to Ming in association with the honor.

“[Ming’s] oeuvre constitutes one of the most meaningful and advanced contemporary visual creations that brilliantly combine performance, video and sound,” Larys Frogier, the jury chair and director of the Rockbund, said in a statement. His artworks have enriched the field of media and engendered a unique sensitivity of making time and space profuse with infinite possibilities of meaning.”

At the Rockbund, Ming exhibited his recently commissioned pieces as well as highlights of works from the last three years, including his noteworthy series,“Rendering the Mind,” 2017. The video work shows different perspectives within the five-star hotel Broadway Mansions in Shanghai across several screens, allowing the viewer to examine the place’s public and private memories.


November 24, 2017

Artists Withdraw from Inaugural Kuala Lumpur Biennale

Under Construction, by the art collectives Pusat Sekitar Seni and Population Project, before it was removed from the Kuala Lumpur Biennale. Photo: Pusat Sekitar Seni.

Two art collectives whose work was to be featured in the first edition of the Kuala Lumpur Biennale have withdrawn from the exhibition after learning that the authorities had confiscated their piece on November 22, one day before the biennial was set to open at the National Visual Arts Gallery in Malaysia.

It was reported in several media outlets, including The Malaysian Insight and ArtAsiaPacific, that the authorities had arrived at the gallery with members of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and seized the work after visitors had complained about the its inclusion in the exhibition since it allegedly contains “elements of communism.”

The incident sparked the seven artists who created the piece—the art collective Pusat Sekitar Seni, comprising Malaysian artists Aisyah Baharuddin, Ahmad Azrel Kilheeny, Mohamad Idham Ismail, Nurul Adeline Zainuddin, and Iltizam Iman Abd Jalil, in collaboration with the group Population Project, consisting of Isrol Triono and Selo Srie Mulyadi—to withdraw from the biennial.

November 24, 2017

Following Brexit, EU Rules British Cities Cannot Be Capitals of Culture

The opening ceremonies for Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008. Photo: Jon Super

The European Union has announced that Britain can no loner host the European Capital of Culture in 2023. The decision comes after Britain and Hungary were already designated as the countries that would be honored with the title. Five cities had already submitted formal proposals for the year-long program of cultural events. Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds, and Milton Keynes, as well as Belfast, Derry, and Strabane, in a joint proposal, had prepared bids.

“We are gutted to learn that the UK will not be allowed to host the European Capital of Culture as planned in 2023 after Brexit,” the Creative Industries Federation, the national organization for the UK’s creative industries, said in a statement on Wednesday. “People are working feverishly behind the scenes to reverse this decision and the Federation stands ready to mediate between the European Commission and the UK government's Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport on this matter.”

Only countries that are part of the European Union or the European Economic Area are eligible to be named the European Capital of Culture. Since the UK will have officially left the EU by March 29, 2019, the European Commission said that “it makes common sense to discontinue the selection process now.”

November 22, 2017

Florida’s Harn Museum Director Rebecca M. Nagy to Step Down

Rebecca M. Nagy.

After fifteen years as director of the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art, Rebecca M. Nagy has announced that she will retire in the summer of 2018. Under her leadership, the museum more than doubled its permanent collection and completed several building expansions, including the addition of a new 18,000-square-foot contemporary art wing and a 26,000-square-foot wing for the exhibition, conservation, and study of Asian art.

“It has been an honor to lead the Harn through significant growth in what feels like a very short amount of time,” Nagy said. “My years here have provided challenges, rich rewards, and much joy and satisfaction. There are great things ahead for the Harn. I leave secure in the knowledge that my colleagues’ passion, energy and dedication to excellence will thrive under new leadership.”

Prior to her appointment as director of the Harn in 2002, Nagy spent seventeen years at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, where she concluded her tenure as associate director of education while also serving as curator of African art. From 1988 through 2002, she also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was awarded her doctorate in art history in 1983. Nagy is currently an editor at the scholarly journal African Arts, and serves as a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

November 22, 2017

Zurich’s Karma International Relocates

Marina Olsen and Karolina Dankow in their Zurich gallery Karma International. Photo: Flavio Karrer

The Swiss gallery Karma International has announced plans to move from Kunsthalle to the Kreis 3 neighborhood in Zurich. Its new space will open with a survey of Meret Oppenheim’s works on December 14. It is also currently organizing upcoming solo shows by Simone Fattal, and Alex Becerra—who previously exhibited work in the “Hot Mess” group show at Karma’s Los Angeles outpost.

Karma’s codirector, Marina Olsen told Artnews that she hopes the move will “change energies . . . to get new inspiration, for ourselves and for the artists.” Caruso St John Architects is retrofitting the space, which will be around the same size as the previous gallery.

November 22, 2017

Russian Culture Forum Supported by Putin Rekindles Talk over Artistic Freedoms

Vladimir Putin giving a speech at the St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum. Photo: Kremlin.

The St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum in Russia, which ran from November 16 to November 18 and was supported by President Vladimir Putin, has reignited debates about the country’s problematic relationship to artistic freedom, writes Sophia Kishkovsky of the Art Newspaper. Many are concerned about the spirit of the country’s cultural sphere, especially in light of Gogol Theater director Kirill Serebrennikov’s arrest after he was accused of embezzling government funds. Numerous factions wanted to boycott the event, while others said attending it in order to speak out in support of artistic freedom was the only “morally defensible” reason for taking part.

The forum opened with a speech by Putin at the Mariinsky Theater, where he spoke about “culture, art, and education” as a “response to the challenges of barbarity, intolerance, and aggressive radicalism.” He also met with a number of institutions and schools that worked with young people interested in the arts. Semyon Mikhailovsky, the rector of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, who also happens to be the commissioner of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, told Putin that his school guides hundreds of students from China—and some from the United States—in the ecclesiastical arts. Putin then asked if Mikhailovsky was “teaching them the right things,” imploring the rector to instruct his pupils in lessons that were “good and proper.”

Even people loyal to Putin are worried about the state of culture in Russia. The director of the State Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, told the BBC Russian Service that “one should not show a theater director in a cage.” Serebrennikov is behind bars in court, like any of the accused in Russia during a criminal trial. Serebrennikov has also spoken out publicly in favor of a Hermitage employee in charge of construction who is under arrest on corruption charges. The director said he completed projects efficiently, which is nearly impossible due to Russian bureaucracy. Putin had mentioned Serebrennikov and the Hermitage worker in an October Kremlin meeting, saying their arrests meant that the justice system is functioning well.

November 22, 2017

Artist Zanele Muholi Receives Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters

Zanele Muholi

South African photographer and self-described “visual activist” Zanele Muholi is the recipient of France’s Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters, one of the country’s highest honors, writes Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper.

Muholi is being recognized for her singular artistic contributions to French culture and the world. She has spent her life documenting South Africa’s LGBTQIA community. She is also a cofounder of the Forum of Empowerment of Women, and the creator of Inkanyiso, a stage for artistic and queer activism.

“We work hard to create content that scholars and the rest of the world are able to use to highlight the many challenges faced by the LGBT communities,” said Muholi to the South African newspaper the New Age. “We might not be on television and reported about widely, and when the reporting comes we are reported carelessly and haphazardly. For us, it is important to make sure that we unite the LGBT community so that people know we exist as professionals and as creators of great content.”

November 22, 2017

Curator of Queer Art Exhibition Called Before Brazil’s Senate

Curator Gaudêncio Fidelis.

Gaudêncio Fidelis, the curator of “Queermuseu”—an exhibition dedicated to queer art that was staged at Santander Cultural in Porto Alegre in Brazil earlier this year—has been ordered to appear in front of Brazil’s Senate on Thursday, November 23. Fidelis came under fire from right-wing groups who targeted the exhibition, claiming it promoted blasphemy, pedophilia, and child prostitution. Conservatives denounced the show and vandalized the building, which led Santander Cultural to close the show early.

According to Elisa Wouk Almino of Hyperallergic, since the exhibition was shut down, Fidelis has been under investigation for the “mistreatment of children and teenagers” due to his involvement with the show. Far-right critics of “Queermuseu” believe the exhibition “[perverts] the notion of the family.” One of the leaders of the Free Brazil Movement, a right-wing party that has been responsible for attacking cultural events across Brazil this past year, told The Guardian that a boycott of the show was initiated because the exhibition involved public money in the promotion of “bestiality, pedophilia, and offences to the Christian faith.”

Featuring eighty-five artists, including Lygia Clark, Cândido Portinari, José Leonilson, and 263 artworks, the show was the country’s largest-ever exhibition of queer art. Fidelis had not been consulted before Santander Cultural decided to close the show early, which prompted him to accuse the venue of shutting down public dialogue.