Chicago Art Nonprofit Threewalls Faces Downsizing and Layoffs

Exhibition View at Threewalls

Chicago art nonprofit Threewalls is downsizing—laying off its staff of two—and moving to a new venue. Jeffreen Hayes, the new executive director, noted that the institution was “not financially stable,” and skyrocketing rents in West Loop are necessitating a move.

While the show that was scheduled to open this month has been postponed, the rest of the nonprofit’s exhibitions will proceed as planned. Threewalls was founded in 2003 and received W.A.G.E Certification in May of last year.

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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."

February 20, 2017

Details Announced for Ancient Artifacts Loaned to Iraqi Pavilion at 2017 Venice Biennale

Artist unknown, Mother goddess, 5000 BCE, stone.

After previously announcing the artists who will exhibit in Iraq’s pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale, details regarding the ancient Iraqi artifacts that will be displayed alongside the contemporary works have been released by the Ruya Foundation, whose chair and cofounder Tamara Chalabi is curating the exhibition with Paolo Colombo.

Titled “Archaic,” the exhibition will feature forty artifacts spanning six millennia, from the Neolithic age to the Neo-Babylonian period, that were drawn from the collection of the National Museum of Iraq as well as works by artists Luay Fadhil, Sherko Abbas, Sakar Sleman, Ali Arkady, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Nadine Hattom, Jawad Salim, Shaker Hassan Al Said, and Francis Alÿs. Most of the loaned objects have never left the country, except for a few which were recently recovered after the 2003 lootings of the museum.

There will be artifacts made of stone, glass, and clay; cylinder and stamp seals; cuneiform tablets; medical objects; a musical instrument; and figurines of animals, deities, people, and boats as well as everyday objects such as jugs, sieves, and toys. A number of pieces were returned to the National Museum from the Netherlands via an Interpol directive in 2010. These include a Babylonian stone weight measure in the shape of a dove and a clay figurine depicting what is presumed to be a fertility goddess dating from around 5000 BCE. A distinctive cylinder seal from the Akkadian period depicting three parallel scenes from the epic of Gilgamesh, and a circular clay school text from the Babylonian period that was used to teach writing are among the featured highlights of the collection to be displayed. The artifacts were selected by Tamara Chalabi in collaboration with Qais Hussein Rashid, the director of the department of antiquities at the National Museum, his team, and archaeologist Lamia Gailani Werr.

February 20, 2017

2017 Socle du Monde Biennale Announces List of Participating Artists

Asger Jorn

Named after Italian artist Piero Manzoni’s piece Socle du monde (Base of the World), 1961, the Socle du Monde Biennale is coorganized by the ZERO Foundation in Düsseldorf and the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art (HEART) in Herning, Denmark, and will open on April 21 at the HEART, the Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum, Herning Højskole, and in the parks around HEART. Titled “To Challenge the Earth, the Moon, the Sun & the Stars,” the exhibition “pays homage to all great artists, before and after, who accepted the challenge of turning our world upside down.”

Running from April 22 to August 27, the seventh edition of the biennial is curated by Mattijs Visser, the founding director of the ZERO Foundation, along with curators Olivier Varenne, Jean-Hubert Martin, Daniel Birnbaum, and Maria Finders. Assisting the team are Holger Reenberg, director at HEART and founding director of the biennial; Lotte Korshøj, the director at Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum; and Michael Bank Christoffersen, chief curator at HEART.

The full artist list is as follows:

February 20, 2017

National Gallery’s Rejected $38 Million Bid Sparks Calls to Reform UK Export System

Detail from the painting Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap by Jacopo Pontormo.

UK’s export system comes under fire after an American collector turns down London’s National Gallery’s $38 million bid to buy a Jacopo Pontormo painting because of the declining post-Brexit exchange rate, Mark Brown of The Guardian reports.

US hedge fund owner Tom Hill purchased Pontormo’s Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap, 1530, one of only fifteen surviving portraits by the Florentine painter, from the Earl of Caledon in 2015 despite an agreement with the National Gallery, where it was on loan, that declared the institution would be given a three-month advanced warning if the work was to be sold.

Former culture minister Ed Vaizey issued a temporary export ban so that the gallery could raise enough funds to match Hill’s offer, but due to the current exchange rate, Hill would be taking a roughly $10 million loss on the transaction if he accepted the recent bid.

February 20, 2017

Art Dealer Sentenced to over Three Years in Prison for Selling Forged Modern Art

Eric Spoutz

The US attorney’s office announced on February 16 that the Michigan-based art dealer Eric Spoutz has been sentenced to forty-one months in prison, and three years supervised release, for wire fraud charges related to his scheme to sell forged artworks purportedly by Modern artists, according to Dan Duray in the Art Newspaper. Spoutz was also ordered to forfeit the $1.45 million of “ill-gotten gains” he made off the sales, and to pay $154,100 in restitution.

Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, who also previously went after the dealer at the heart of the Knoedler forgery ring, said in a statement: “Eric Spoutz used false and fictitious provenance to peddle his forged artwork to unsuspecting buyers, claiming they were masterpieces from Willem De Kooning, Franz Kline, and Joan Mitchell. . .Our office has a long history of investigating—and prosecuting—those who try to contaminate the art world with fraudulent artwork. Thanks to the outstanding investigative work by the FBI, Spoutz’s alleged forgery mill is no longer in business.”

Between 2003 and 2015, Spoutz used a complicated series of letters from law firms and galleries, along with sales receipts and in once case a letter that bequeathed non-existent works to Dartmouth College, to run his business. In total, he stole at least $1,450,000 from his victims. Among the museum collections Spoutz claims to have placed or given works to are the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Detroit Institute of Arts. He sold works at auction houses, as well as to an online auction site, under a variety of aliases, including John Goodman, James Sinclair, and Robert Chad Smith.

February 17, 2017

Italy Recovers Large Guercino Painting Stolen in 2014

Guercino’s Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker, 1639, was stolen from the Church of San Vincenzo in Modena, Italy, in 2014.

Italy’s Carabinieri art crime unit has recovered a large painting by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (better known as Guercino), Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker, 1639, that was reported stolen from a church in Modena in 2014, Hannah McGivern of the Art Newspaper reports.

Officials of the Church of San Vincenzo said that the ten by six feet Baroque altarpiece was not insured and that the alarm system protecting the work was inactive because of a lack of funds. Since the church is rarely open to the public, the authorities believe the criminals responsible for the theft must have hidden in the building after a Sunday mass.

Three men were recently arrested after approaching a collector in Casablanca, Morocco, about selling the work for roughly $993,000. The collector recognized the piece and reported the incident to the police who informed Interpol and the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale. Culture minister Dario Franceschini said that the government is currently negotiating the return of the artwork.

February 17, 2017

Wendy Yao Wins White Columns / Shoot the Lobster Award for Creating Opportunities for Artists

Wendy Yao

White Columns and Shoot the Lobster announced today that Wendy Yao, the founder of the Los Angeles–based bookstore Ooga Booga, is the recipient of the 2017 White Columns / Shoot The Lobster Award, which recognizes individuals who work to create opportunities for both artists and audiences. Yao will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a commissioned artwork that will be presented to her during the 2017 Printed Matter LA Art Book Fair, which kicks off on February 24.

Artist and publisher Asher Penn said, “Ooga Booga has become a non-institutional hub within the Los Angeles area; a go-to place for its selection of books, multiples, fashion items, and accessories. Outside Los Angeles, Ooga Booga is an icon of independent entrepreneurship, participating in art and book fairs, opening temporary satellite stores, creating online resources for independent publishers, and organizing events in various venues.” She added, “While Yao insists that the store’s success could not be possible without the support of the store’s participants and local community, as well as the help of interns and staff, Ooga Booga is nevertheless an incredibly small and personal operation.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Yao founded Ooga Booga in 2004. Specializing in artist publications, music, design, and independent culture, the second-floor shop has hosted a range of events over the past thirteen years including free performances, film screenings, readings, radio shows, book and music events, exhibitions, and artist projects. Is also publishes fanzines, art books, and music recordings.