Nikon Loses Court Battle Against Photographer Over “Comfort Women” Show

Ahn Se Hong

South Korean photographer Ahn Se Hong has successfully sued Nikon, which canceled an exhibition featuring his photos of South Korean so-called “comfort women,” the euphemism for the sex slaves forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II, reports the Japan Times. Nikon, back in 2012, had consented to host the show in its galleries, but then had a change of heart. Now, according to a Tokyo District Court ruling from last Friday, Nikon will have to pay Ahn around ten thousand dollars in damages.

“It was unjust that the company did not talk with the plaintiff and unilaterally refused to hold the events,” said the presiding judge. Ahn argued in his suit that his “social value as a photographer was significantly undermined and personal right was violated.” Following the ruling, the artist added, “I expect places for expression will be protected from now on.”


April 24, 2017

Rome Prize Announces 2017–2018 Winners

Sanford Biggers

The American Academy in Rome has announced the recipients of its annual Rome prize, which supports innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities through fellowships at its eleven-acre campus in Rome, Italy. Sanford Biggers, Abigail Deville, Rochelle Feinstein, Allen Frame, and Beverly Mciver are the awardees for the visual arts category. They will be provided with room and board, a stipend that ranges from $16,000 and $28,000 depending on the length of the fellowship, and studio space.

Chaired by Holly Block, executive director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York, the jury for the visual arts comprised artists Polly Apfelbaum, Josephine Meckseper, and Lorna Simpson.

Brandon Clifford and Keith Krumwiede won fellowships in the architecture category, while Jennifer Birkeland, Jonathan A. Scelsa, and Tricia Treacy won for design.

April 24, 2017

Claire Doherty Appointed Director of Arnolfini

Claire Doherty

The board of trustees at Arnolfini—an arts organization in Bristol, UK—have appointed Claire Doherty as the new director of the space following the departure of Kate Brindley last December.

Doherty is currently the director of Situations, which she founded as part of the University of the West of England in 2002. It became an independent organization in 2012 and has been part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio since 2015. Among the initiatives produced by Situations is Theaster Gates’s Sanctum, 2015, the artist’s first public art project in the UK. Commenting on the appointment, Anna Southall, chair of the Arnolfini board, said, “Following an international search, trustees are thrilled to have appointed Claire, whose work developing Situations we have long admired. Claire is an inspiring leader, both visionary and entrepreneurial, and has excited us with her ideas for a vibrant future for Arnolfini.”

In 2016, Claire was appointed MBE for services to the arts in the south west of England. Doherty commented on her new role, saying, “I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead Arnolfini’s next chapter in Bristol—a city which is truly a crucible of brave, new ideas and creative talent. Across the UK, this is a moment of profound change for our cultural infrastructure as we face the economic and societal challenges ahead. We are already seeing new models of collaboration, leadership and openness emerge and brave new types of arts organization which are responding to the interests and needs of artists and audiences in more relevant ways. I’m excited about the prospect of Arnolfini playing a major part in these developments, drawing on its considerable history, as we go forward with an emboldened, new vision.”

April 24, 2017

Tate Modern’s Switch House Neighbors Sue Museum

The Neo Bankside buildings in London.

Tom Batchelor reports in The Independent that residents of a series of glass-walled condominiums adjacent to Tate Modern’s new Switch House have filed a lawsuit against the museum. The plaintiffs claim that visitors are violating their privacy and turning them into “public exhibits” by taking photographs of their homes while on the institution’s observation deck. The complaint states that this is a breach of their human rights due to “near constant surveillance.”

Residents, who said the photos of their apartments are being shared on social media, want the gallery to erect a screen blocking the view from the museum to their homes. The high court writ submitted in the case claims the viewing platform does “not provide a safe or satisfactory home environment for young children.” They also want Tate to pay their legal costs. The developer of the apartment buildings, Native Land, has previously said that prospective buyers of flats in what’s dubbed Neo Bankside—with apartments that have been marketed at nearly $25.5 million—could have easily seen marketing material showing the location of the planned viewing gallery at Tate, and that a model showing the planned Tate extension as it would stand next to Neo Bankside was also available.

A spokesperson for Tate said: “The design of the building has always included a high level terrace for the benefit of the public, but we cannot comment further given the conditions of the legal process.” Last year, the museum placed signs that read “please respect our neighbours’ privacy” in areas that overlooked the Neo Bankside buildings.

April 24, 2017

LAXART Founder Opens Production Studio in LA

Future site of there-there at 4845 Fountain Avenue in Los Angeles.

After stepping down from her directorship of LAXART in Los Angeles, which she founded in 2005, Lauri Firstenberg is creating a new art production studio in partnership with Los Angeles–based artist Anthony James, according to a report by Nate Freeman in Artnews. It will be located in East Hollywood and called there-there. The company will work with artists, institutions, and foundations in an advisory capacity while funding and producing work. The studio will also host exhibitions in a gallery that will be built into its prospective headquarters on 4845 Fountain Avenue, next to a Church of Scientology building.

Firstenberg said of the project: “Over the course of fourteen years things have evolved [in LA] tremendously, but some things haven’t changed…There’s so much to do if you think about so many international artists who have yet to work in Los Angeles.” She has also proposed that her initiative may bolster the trend away from the traditional model of gallery representation: “My generation of artists in LA, if you really break it down, a lot of their galleries have closed, they don’t have the support structure that they need—and so, they can come to there-there. And there’s a generation of emerging artists who have yet to come to LA and produce projects, and that’s something that I’ve been committed to since I started curating in my early twenties.”

The space will open this spring and programming will begin next September.

April 21, 2017

NEA Report Reveals Economic Impact of the Arts Per State

An infographic conveying the top arts and cultural exports in the United States in 2014. Photo: The National Endowment of the Arts

The National Endowment of the Arts and the Bureau of Economic Analysis have released a report that provides state leaders with data on the impact of the arts and culture on the economy and the job market. Based on data from 2014, its research shows that cultural industries in the US have contributed $729.6 billion to the economy, and between 1998 and 2014, the contribution of arts and culture to the nation’s gross domestic product grew by 35.1 percent.

“Information from the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account has been invaluable for understanding the role of arts and culture in our economy, demonstrating that the arts are indeed part of our everyday lives,” said NEA chairman Jane Chu. “Now with the new state data, state leaders have a powerful tool to assess and advance arts and culture for the benefit of all their residents.”

According to the report, between 2013 and 2014, the growth in arts and cultural workers exceeded the national rate in seventeen states, with the largest growth in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Washington. New York, Washington, Wyoming, and Hawaii had the highest concentrations of jobs in the arts. Hawaii’s twenty-three museums and seventeen zoos and botanical gardens contribute to the state’s high museum employment, which is four times the national rate.

The report’s findings come at a time when the future of the National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities, as well as the Corporation of Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Library and Museum Services, are uncertain. President Trump proposed eliminating them in his 2018 Federal Budget plan, which still needs to be approved by Congress.

April 21, 2017

Buckingham Palace Honors Chris Ofili for His Services to Art

Chris Ofili

Artist Chris Ofili and actor, director, and playwright Mark Rylance were among the honorees at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, April 19, The Guardian reports. Rylance was knighted for his services to theater and Ofili was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).

The Turner-Prize-wining artist said that the award was special due to his parents’ decision to relocate to England from Nigeria more than four decades ago. “We set up our life in England and it’s so special to be recognized for what I do in England and Britain, and for my parents that they made a great choice and invested so much in me,” Ofili said. “It feels as though I have achieved a lot.”

Among the other honorees are heptathlete and Olympic-gold-medalist Ennis-Hill, who was made a dame commander during the ceremony; Victoria Beckham, who became an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her contributions to the fashion industry; and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley, who died while trekking across Antarctica to raise money for the Endeavour Fund—an initiative that supports the recovery of wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women—last year.

April 21, 2017

Man Defaces Painting at Metropolitan Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo: Jefferson Siegel

Just after 5 PM on Thursday, April 20, a man vandalized a student’s painting on view in the education center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Daily News reports.

Thirty-three-year-old Ryan Watson used a blue marker to write “Nazi art” on a work on display and then yelled, “go back to your country,” after he was approached by a security guard. Museum staff called the police after the incident occurred, who arrested Watson and charged him with graffiti and criminal mischief.

Met spokeswoman Annie Bailis said that every effort is being made to restore the piece, which is featured in the museum’s “Scholastic Art and Writing Awards” exhibit. She added, “The Met is grateful for the quick and effective action taken by security officers and the NYPD on this unfortunate incident.”

April 21, 2017

Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930–2017)

Magdalena Abakanowicz

Polish sculptor and fiber artist Magdalena Abakanowicz has died at the age of eighty-six, the rector of Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts said on Friday, April 21. Perhaps best known for her biomorphic, large-scale sculptures of headless human figures made from thick fibers hardened with synthetic resins, the artist once said: “There is no tool between me and the material I use. I choose it with my hands. I shape it with my hands. My hands transmit my energy to it. By translating an idea into a shape, they will always pass on something escaping conceptualization. They will reveal the unconscious.”

Born on June 20, 1930, in Falenty, Poland, Abakanowicz began her artistic career as a painter and shifted to creating sculptural forms with textiles shortly after. Her soft sculptures made from dyed sisal fibre, known as ‘Abakans,’ were exhibited at the 1964 International Biennial of Tapestry in Lausanne and won a gold medal at the 1967 So Paulo Biennial. She was also the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Award for Distinction in Sculpture from the New York Sculpture Center in 1993 and the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1999. Abakanowicz was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland, from 1965 to 1990, and a visiting professor at a number of institutions in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Boston, New York, San Diego, Sydney, and Tokyo. Her permanent installations can be found in Grant Park, Chicago; at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; and Warsaw’s Romuald Traugutt Park; the largest collection of her art is safeguarded by the National Museum in Wrocław in Poland.

In the November 1993 issue of Artforum, Marek Bartelik reviewed her shows at Marlborough Gallery and PS1 MoMA. He wrote: “Vivid memories of World War II and four decades of communism inform the art of the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz . . . In order to create her sculptures, Abakanowicz peels the bark, cuts off the limbs, and inserts metal devices into tree trunks, making them look like subjects of double torture, first by an unknown hostile force, then by the artist herself. Yet such ‘cruelty’ allows her to question the binary oppositions of victim and oppressor, love and hate, life and death, while preventing her from simplistically repeating therhetoric that so often surrounds themes of war, totalitarianism, or ecology.”

April 21, 2017

South African Galleries Refuse to Show Work by Convicted Murderer Zwelethu Mthethwa

William Booth and Zwelethu Mthethwa leaving the Western Cape High Court in in Cape Town on June 1, 2015. Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht

Following a court ruling last month that found photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa guilty of murder, several galleries and auction houses in South Africa have decided not to display or sell his work, Andrew Robertson of IOL reports.

“In a recent board meeting, the directors of Strauss & Co decided that the company would not be auctioning works by Zwelethu Mthethwa until further notice,” marketing and advertising officer of the auction house Bina Genovese said.

Mthethwa was convicted of killing twenty-three-year-old sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo in 2013. His attorney, William Booth, recently postponed sentencing since he has been denied access to the prison and was unable to have a clinical psychologist and social worker meet with Mthethwa.