Preservation Project Uses 3D Printers to Fight ISIS’s Destruction of Heritage Sites

The Triumphal arch, a second-century monument erected by the Romans, in Palmyra, Syria before it was destroyed by ISIS.

#NewPalmyra, an online platform and data repository launched in October, is using unconventional means to fight against the architectural damage done by ISIS in the Syrian city of Palmyra: The group is collecting and publicly sharing data about the ancient city and its destroyed monuments.

On January 18, the virtual archaeologists released the digitally recreated cultural heritage monument, the Arch of Triumph, a Roman arch erected in celebration of a military victory over the Persians, which was destroyed by ISIS this fall.

“The Arch of Triumph is a symbol of the indestructible cultural spirit of Syria,” #NewPalmyra interim director Barry Threw said. “The free sharing of this symbol ensures that the memory embodied in it can never truly be destroyed.”

The #NewPalmyra community plans to have 25,000 active printers in 160 countries working in support of its project to preserve Syrians’ rich history by 3D-printing versions of the arch. The printers are encouraged to document their creative process and submit their models by January 22 to be included in an exhibition at the Taipei Contemporary Art Center the following day.

The two-thousand-year-old city, described on UNESCO’s website as “one of the most important cultural centers in the world,” was seized by ISIS last year. Other Palmyran architectural treasures decimated by ISIS include the Temple of Bel and the Temple of Baalshamin.

#NewPalmyra was initiated by Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian activist and open source developer who works to make Syria’s history accessible to the world. He started virtually reconstructing Palmyra in 2005. The project was put on hold when he was arrested in 2012 for unknown charges but Barry Threw and fellow activists revitalized the project in October.

The exhibition will close on January 31 and all models and work from the show will be released into the public domain under a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 license.


February 21, 2017

Art Basel and BMW Name Max Hooper Schneider as BMW Art Journey Award Winner

Max Hooper Schneider, Accidental Menagerie, 2015, mixed media, acrylic trays, polymer resin, aluminum structure, custom hardware, 120 x 108 x 15".

Art Basel and BMW have awarded this year’s Art Journey Award to Los Angeles–based artist Max Hooper Schneider. Hooper’s Art Journey project, Planetary Vitrine: The Reef as Event, “is a maritime exploration of coral reefs around the globe . . . [mostly] in the Indo-West Pacific.” The work will incorporate short visits to a pair of “pilgrimage sites seminal in the development of the coral imaginary in science and art: Cocos Keeling Islands, where Charles Darwin conducted fieldwork for his 1842 treatise, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs; and the Bahamas, to which André Breton traveled on an imaginary voyage via readymade photographic representations of Bahamian coral in order to document nature’s surreality.” Hooper’s project will involve research, documentation, and performative/sculptural interactions with the natural world.

The jury for this year’s award is the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni, the Berlin Biennale’s Gabriele Horn, Victoria Noorthoorn of the Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires, Bisi Silva of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, and Philip Tinari of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing.

February 21, 2017

Sofia Imber (1925–2017)

Sofia Imber

Sofia Imber, a journalist, television presenter, and arts administrator who transformed an auto parts garage into the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art, died on February 19, writes Fabiola Sanchez of the Associated Press / Star-Tribune.

Imber was born in Soroca, Moldova, in the former Soviet Union. She came to Venezuela in 1930 with her family, and went on to graduate from the Central University of Venezuela. With her second husband, Carlos Rangel, she hosted the television program Buenos Dias from 1969 to 1993. She was famous for her no-holds-barred interviews with international leaders, artists, and writers, such as former US president Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In 1971, when Venezuelan officials were trying to find a place to exhibit art, Imber said to them, “If you give me a garage, I will turn it into a museum.” A few years later, Venezuela had its first institution dedicated to modern art, exhibiting works from Venezuelan artists in addition to artists of international renown, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Fernando Botero. In 2001, she was fired from her job as the museum’s director, as she was a fierce critic of late president Hugo Chavez’s socialist government. “The president forgot or did not want to recognize the courage and the dedication of this wonderful woman,” the artist Jesus Soto said to the Associated Press before his death in 2005. Prior her departure from the museum, Imber created a program to showcase art in some of Venezuela’s most remote territories. In 1967, she became Latin America’s first woman to receive UNESCO’s Picasso Medal. She also received awards from France, Brazil, Colombia, Italy, and Spain, among other countries.

February 21, 2017

Shia LaBeouf Finds New Home for Anti-Trump Work

Shia LeBeouf standing before his work in Albuquerque. Photo: Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal.

The artist and actor Shia LaBeouf has found a new home for his anti-Trump video installation, HeWillNotDivide.Us. The public artwork, which New York’s Museum of the Moving Image in Queens had removed because it was “a flashpoint for violence,” opened at the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on February 18.

In a joint statement, LaBeouf and his artistic collaborators, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner, accused the Queens museum of caving to political pressures when it took down the work. An excerpt reads: “From the outset, the museum failed to address our concerns about the misleading framing of our piece as a political rally, rather than as a participatory performance artwork resisting the normalization of division. In fact, the museum demonstrated a spectacular lack of judgment—and courtesy to us as artists—by neglecting to consult us when they staged a political rally at the site of our artwork on January 29, 2017. On numerous occasions, we voiced serious concerns to the museum about hate speech occurring at the site of our project, and requested that the museum act responsibly in moderating this and providing the public a means of reporting such incidents. Our requests were not even acknowledged, let alone acted upon. . . . It is our understanding that the museum bowed to political pressure in ceasing their involvement with our project.”

The Museum of the Moving Image removed the work on February 10 citing “ongoing safety hazards” that the work posed for visitors, staff, local residents, and businesses. In a statement on its website, the institution said that “while the installation began constructively, it deteriorated after one of the artists was arrested on the site of the installation and ultimately necessitated this action.” LaBeouf was the artist who was arrested. He was detained after quarreling with a man outside the museum on January 26. The institution said that threats of violence also contributed to its decision to shut down the piece.

February 21, 2017

Bath Faces 100 Percent Cuts in Arts Funding

Karen Bradley, the UK’s minister of culture.

Matthew Hemley of The Stage reports that Bath and the North East Somerset Council has approved a 100 percent cut to all arts funding within their budget. Equity, the UK trade union for actors and other creative professionals, has asked the Conservative Party’s Karen Bradley, the UK’s minister of culture, to intervene on the decision.

The grants provide theater companies up to about $6,200 annually. The council figures that stopping the funding will save them nearly $540,000 by the year 2020. Equity is also worried that Bristol’s city council will make similar cuts. Stephen Spence, Equity’s general deputy secretary, said, “The council has committed an act of cultural vandalism in Bath that will result in a new dark age for arts and culture in the region.”

A government spokeswoman, responding to calls made by Equity, said, “One of the best investments we can make as a nation is in our arts and museums. That is why the government has protected funding for National Museums to ensure they remain free to enter, and between 2015 and 2018 Arts Council England will invest approximately $1.9 billion of government and National Lottery funding,”

Performer Les Dennis said, “Our children should be encouraged to embrace the arts to develop their cultural outlook. If the arts aren't funded they won't be able to. We ignore its importance at our peril.”

February 21, 2017

Francis Kéré Commissioned to Design 2017 Serpentine Pavilion

A digital illustration of the Serpentine Pavilion for 2017.

Berlin-based African architect Diébédo Francis Kéré has been commissioned to design the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens. Kéré, who is from the village of Gando in Burkina Faso, is the first African architect to receive an invitation for the project.

This year’s pavilion takes its inspiration from a tree that serves as the central social hub in Gando. The pavilion’s supporting structure will be fabricated from steel, while the roof, made from wood, will be designed to look like the canopy of a tree. There will be four separate entry points that will allow visitors to wander easily throughout the open courtyard. An oculus on the building’s roof will funnel water from rains into a kind of splashing ornamental display before it is evacuated into a drainage system, also made from wood, for irrigating the park. The pavilion will continue to host its performance series, Park Nights, in addition to the Build Your Own Pavilion program, an architecture campaign funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that “invite[s] young people to consider the relationship between architecture and public space.”

“As an architect, it is an honor to work in such a grand park, especially knowing the long history of how the gardens evolved and changed into what we see today,” said Kéré. “I am fascinated by how this artificial landscape offered a new way for people in the city to experience nature. In Burkina Faso, I am accustomed to being confronted with climate and natural landscape as a harsh reality. For this reason, I was interested in how my contribution to this Royal Park could not only enhance the visitor’s experience of nature, but also provoke a new way for people to connect with each other.”

February 21, 2017

Two More Artworks from Cornelius Gurlitt’s Collection Restituted

Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was an art dealer for the Nazis.

A painting by Camille Pissarro and a drawing by Adolph Menzel—both from the collection of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, who had been hiding a trove of artworks inherited from his father, Hildebrand, who was an art dealer for the Nazis—have finally been returned to the heirs of the original owners, reports Catherine Hickley of the Art Newspaper. So far, a total of four artworks from the Gurlitt collection have been restituted. Ninety-one other works, from artists such as Paul Cézanne, Max Beckmann, Albrecht Dürer, Edvard Munch, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas, are greatly suspected of being sold under duress by or stolen from their Jewish owners.

Monika Grütters, Germany’s minister of culture, returned the Menzel drawing to the heirs of Elsa Helene Cohen on February 20. Cohen sold the work to Hildebrand in 1938 so that she could pay for her escape to the United States. The Pissarro was returned to the relatives of Max Heilbronn, a French-Jewish businessman, on February 17. “Germany must do everything to clarify the personal fates of persecuted people like Elsa Cohen, who saw themselves forced into selling artworks at that time, and return them to the heirs with no ifs or buts,” said Grütters in a statement.

Bern’s Kunstmuseum and the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn plan on mounting a joint exhibition of Gurlitt’s collection in November.

February 20, 2017

Paris Museum Burglar Receives Eight-Year Prison Sentence for $110 Million Heist

Vjeran Tomic Photo: Thibault Camus

Dubbed the Spider-Man burglar, Vjeran Tomic has been sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay a $212,000 fine by a French criminal court for stealing five paintings worth more than $110 million from the Paris Museum of Modern Art in 2010, Benoît Morenne of the New York Times reports.

Notorious for scaling buildings in order to commit robberies, Tomic made off with Georges Braque’s Olive Tree near l’Estaque, 1906, Fernand Léger’s Still Life with Candlestick, 1922, Henri Matisse’s Pastoral, 1906, Amedeo Modigliani’s Woman with Fan, 1919, and Pablo Picasso’s Dove with Green Peas, 1911, in one of the biggest art heists. Whether the works have been sold has still not been determined.

According to The Telegraph, Peimane Ghalez-Marzban, the presiding judge, said that Tomic, who was able to enter the museum by cutting through a padlocked gate and breaking a window, gained access to the building and evaded the security guards with “disconcerting ease.”

February 20, 2017

Mari Spirito Steps Down as Director of Alt in Istanbul

Mari Spirito

After joining Alt as director and curator of exhibitions just last year, Mari Spirito will step down from her position after February 28. The space originally opened on January 18, 2016. During her tenure at Alt, the venue hosted exhibitions by artists such as Brian Eno, Mounira Al Solh, Ahmet Öğüt, and Rania Stephan.

She will continue her work with Protocinema—a nonprofit that organizes exhibitions traveling between Istanbul and New York—where she is the curator and founding director.

February 20, 2017

Royal Academy of Arts Partners With over Sixty Galleries and Auction Houses for Revamp of London’s Art Weekend

David Zwirner, London

The Royal Academy of Arts is partnering with over sixty galleries and auction houses to rebrand Brown’s London Art Weekend as Mayfair Art Weekend, scheduled to take place June 30 through July 2 this year, according to Anny Shaw in the Art Newspaper. The event will see local galleries including David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, Lévy Gorvy, Victoria Miro, and Sadie Coles HQ come together for three days of special events.

The Royal Academy will host a free arts festival in its courtyard as well as across Burlington House featuring temporary artworks by emerging artists. Kate Goodwin, curator of architecture at the RA, said, “We are looking for the next generation who are not yet represented by the nearby blue-chip galleries.” The festival will also coincide with the institution’s “Schools Show,” an annual exhibition of works by students, and the 249th “Summer Exhibition,” the world’s largest open submission exhibition.

Goodwin says the art works that are currently transforming Burlington Gardens, which are scheduled to be finished in time for the RA’s 250th anniversary in 2018, have also built a bridge to the local art scene. “For 150 years our address has been on Piccadilly,” she says. “But now we have this new entrance to the north, which leads onto a community of art galleries. It is an opportunity to become an integral part of that."