Art Students League Sued by Nearly 300 Members

Scaffolding in front of the Art Students League on West 57th Street.

The Art Students League, the storied nonprofit art school in Manhattan, is facing a lawsuit filed by nearly 300 of its 3,945 voting members who are questioning the school’s sale of air rights above its 1892 headquarters in 2014, a $31.8 million sale to the Extell Development which allowed the company to move ahead in building one of “one of the tallest residential towers in the world,” according to the New York Times’ Tom Mashberg and Colin Moynihan.

Led by Marne Rizika, a painter and printmaker, and Richard Caraballo, a graphic designer, a group raising concerns has released a statement saying “The current president has ruled by fiat, making up the rules as he goes along.” (That president, Salvatore Barbieri, has served since 2006.) “There have been efforts to intimidate and stifle any dissent,” the statement continues.

Barbieri has responded by calling the statement a “classic pattern of amateurish slanderous writing.”

The group has additional grievances: Gary Sussman, a teacher accused of causing a hostile work environment for women, was also fired in December 2014, and some board members are now unhappy with the handling of his dismissal. Sussman is also suing the league as well, claiming he was targeted for challenging authorities at the organization.

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December 9, 2016

US Returns Stolen Artworks to Italy

A detail of a fourteenth-century manuscript page and the Consalvo Carelli painting that was repatriated to Italy on Friday, December 9. Photo: Josh Denmark

The United States’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies have repatriated two looted artworks to Italy at a ceremony at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC on Friday, December 9.

A fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript page depicting Saint Lucy, Pagina Miniata, was taken from “Codex D,” which was created between 1335 and 1345, on an unknown date. In 1952, it was purchased by the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Consalvo Carelli painting was stolen from a private residence in Naples in 2001. It later surfaced at a Pennsylvania auction house in 2014 and was sold to an art dealer in California. The Italian Carabinieri contacted Homeland Security Investigations, who along with their counterparts at US Customs and Border Protection, were able to assist in returning the work to its rightful owner.

“Today's ceremony marks another important stepping stone in the long standing cooperation between the governments of the United States and Italy in the field of cultural promotion and protection of cultural heritage,” Italian Ambassador to the United States Armando Varricchio said. “It also underscores Italy's unwavering commitment to repatriate national treasures unlawfully scattered throughout the world.”

December 9, 2016

California Pacific Triennial Announces 2017 Artist List

Leyla Cárdenas, Scarcity, 2014.

The 2017 California Pacific Triennial has announced its list of participating artists today. Curated by Orange County Museum of Art senior curator Cassandra Coblentz, the exhibition will explore the “temporal precariousness of the built environment” by examining issues of preservation and displacement as well as the effects of global economics and politics on urbanization. Titled “Building As Ever,” the triennial will be held from May 6 to September 3, 2017.

Participating artists include:

December 9, 2016

Baltimore Shutters Bell Foundry Arts Building Due to Unsafe Conditions

The Bell Foundry arts building in Baltimore. Photo: Baltimore Rock Opera Society

Citing safety violations, Baltimore city officials shut down the Bell Foundry arts building in the city’s Station North Arts District evicting dozens of local artists from their studios, Kevin Rector and Wesley Case of the Baltimore Sun report.

On December 5, days after thirty-six people died in Oakland after a warehouse occupied by artists was razed by a fire, city officials condemned the North Calvert Street building which provided artists with studio and events space. The fire department issued a cease-and-desist order and told tenets to vacate the building immediately.

City officials said they were investigating a complaint when they visited the building Monday afternoon. Fire department spokesman Roman Clark said inspectors found “numerous safety violations as well as deplorable conditions,” including flammable and combustible materials, holes in the floor, electrical issues, and beams that were unlawfully removed from the ceiling. Tania Baker, a spokesperson for the city, claimed that people were living on the property without an occupancy permit.

December 9, 2016

Portland Art Museum Names Grace Kook-Anderson Curator of Northwest Art

Grace Kook-Anderson

The Portland Art Museum in Oregon has announced that Grace Kook-Anderson, a former curator of contemporary art at the Laguna Art Museum in California, has been appointed curator of Northwest Art. Kook-Anderson will be responsible for the care, research, exhibition, and growth of the Northwest art collection, including the organization of the biennial Contemporary Northwest Art Awards and will take up the post on January 9, 2017.

“Having closely followed the Portland Art Museum for the last several years, I am very excited to be part of the talented staff of the museum,” Kook-Anderson said. “I look forward to collaborating with fellow curatorial and educational staff, deepening my knowledge of the collection, expanding the scholarship of historical Northwest art up to the present time, and actively engaging with regional artists in the context of a broader art scene.”

During Kook-Anderson’s six-year tenure at the Laguna Art Museum she organized nearly thirty exhibitions, including the creation of the ex.pose contemporary art program. She also expanded the exhibition calendar from one year to three years, served as interim education curator, developed programming, and acquired work for the museum’s collection. Previously, Kook-Anderson served as assistant to the chief curator at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. She earned her bachelor’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in curatorial practice from California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

December 9, 2016

Martin Family Gifts Denver Art Museum $25 Million for Renovation Project

The Denver Art Museum’s Gio Ponti–designed North Building.

The Denver Art Museum announced today that it received a $25 million gift from board chairman J. Landis Martin and his wife Sharon Martin to revitalize its Gio Ponti–designed North Building. The museum will recognize the Martin family’s donation, which is the largest in the museum’s history, by renaming the building in their honor.

“The North Building is considered one of the most significant objects in the museum’s collection, and our family is honored to support the much-needed rehabilitation required to bring it into the twenty-first century,” Lanny Martin said. “The Denver Art Museum is a beacon of creativity, representing the incredible depth of the cultural community in our region and it is critical that we continue to invest in it for the benefit of the entire community.”

Designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates, the seven-story North Building opened in 1971 and was celebrated as the first high rise art museum and the first Ponti building to be constructed in North America.

December 8, 2016

Maine’s Portland Museum of Art Receives Historic $5 Million Gift

Portland Museum of Art Photo: Corey Templeton

The Portland Museum of Art in Maine announced today that it has received the largest matching gift in its history. Arts patrons Judy and Leonard Lauder donated $5 million in support of the museum’s initiative to increase its endowment by a total of $15 million. The directorship position at the institution will be named the Judy and Leonard Lauder director of the Portland Museum of Art in their honor.

In a statement, the Lauders said: “We are overjoyed to be able to make this gift to the Portland Museum of Art in recognition of its sterling leadership—from director Mark Bessire and board Chairman Jeffrey Kane—to the extraordinary board, museum staff, and volunteers, who have collectively made the Portland Museum of Art one of the leading regional art museums in the United States. While we recognize the importance of buildings, we also recognize the tremendous importance of economic stability for cultural institutions. We are confident that this gift, which focuses on the museum endowment, will greatly enhance and promote the financial integrity of this magnificent Maine institution.”

Director Mark H.C. Bessire called the gift “transformative.” He said, “When we complete the focused endowment initiative—spurred by the remarkable contributions of Judy and Leonard Lauder—the museum’s endowment will have grown to almost $40 million, thus providing the PMA with the stronger foundation it needs to effectively continue its mission.”

December 8, 2016

New York’s ISE Cultural Foundation to Close Its Doors

Installation view of “Miraculous” (2012–2013).

New York’s ISE Cultural Foundation—a nonprofit organization established in 1984 to promote emerging and under-represented artists and curators—has announced that it will shutter its doors indefinitely on December 31.

In an open letter, director Tomi Ise cited a sudden decision made by the foundation’s headquarters in Tokyo as the reason for the closure. “After this unexpected notice was delivered, we searched for any possibility to continue our activities in New York. However, we could not overturn the decision in Japan… It is so regrettable and disappointing that we have to stop our activities in the middle of operation.” He added, “We deeply appreciate your support and friendship to the foundation for such a long time and we apologize for any inconvenience caused by this closure.”

For more than two decades the foundation organized exhibitions at its gallery located at 555 Broadway in SoHo. It was known for presenting projects such as the “Asian Art Series,” which focused on introducing Asian artists to US audiences; the “Program for Emerging Curators,” an open call for curators worldwide to present exhibitions; as well as its “Art Student Exhibition” and “ISE NY Art Search” programs.

In 2015, the foundation shifted its focus to issuing grants in support of artists and art communities. In May 2015, it was awarded the Consul General’s Commendation from ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, the consulate general of Japan in New York.

December 8, 2016

Jochen Volz to Curate Brazil’s Pavilion at 2017 Venice Biennale

Jochen Volz

Jochen Volz to Curate Brazil’s Pavilion at 2017 Venice Biennale

The São Paulo Biennial Foundation announced that Jochen Volz, the curator of the 2016 Bienal de São Paulo, will organize Brazil’s pavilion at the fifty-seventh Venice Biennale, which will be held from May 13 to November 26, 2017.

Volz said, “Sharing the event’s faith in the transformative potential of art and culture, I am convinced that we are going to put together a show that will dialogue fully with the present concerns of artists the world over.”

A German native and São Paulo–based curator and art critic, Volz has served as director of the Serpentine Galleries in London and as artistic director of the Inhotim Institute in Brazil. He curated Portikus in Frankfurt and cocurated the international art exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2009 as well as the first Aichi Triennial in Nagoya in 2012.

December 8, 2016

Oakland Mayor Announces $1.7 Million Grant for Affordable Arts Spaces Following Warehouse Fire

A memorial for the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez

After thirty-six people were killed on December 2 in a fire that engulfed a warehouse where artists lived, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the city will create more affordable spaces for arts organizations with a $1.7 million philanthropic grant, Rachael Swan of SF Gate reports.

“The arts are at the center of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighborhood health and wellbeing, yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement,” Schaaf said in a statement. “This public-private collaboration and investments are aimed at preventing displacement, growing the capacity of the city’s artists and cultural organizations, and enhancing municipal resources for the cultural sector over the long haul.”

The grant, which is funded by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and administered by the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, will support a two-year pilot program that will focus on helping artists afford their existing studios or find financially sustainable workplaces. The city will also buy property and offer it to local artists at below market rates.