Agnes Gund’s NYC–Based Art Education Program Plans New National Scope

Agnes Gund

Studio in a School will have a new national scope, according to Robin Pogrebin in the New York Times. The New York City nonprofit gives public school students classes with professional artists. It will grow with the help of a new Studio Institute.

The organization’s founder and chairwoman, Agnes Gund, said “These are programs that can be replicated.” Thomas Cahill, the current president and chief executive, will serve as the institute’s director.

The program has worked with nearly 800,000 students, many from low-income households, since its founding in 1977.

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December 7, 2016

Istanbul Biennial Explores What It Means to Be a Good Neighbor in Its 15th Edition

Photo: Ilgin Erarslan Yanmaz

The Fifteenth Istanbul Biennial has announced that its exhibition “a good neighbor” will address the notions of homes, neighborhoods, and modes of living in the private and public spheres as well as how they’ve changed throughout the past decades.

A performance involving forty people asking questions about what constitutes a good neighbor kicked off a press conference that the biennial held this morning. Artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, who were selected earlier this year to curate the exhibition, discussed the biennial’s format and introduced the biennial’s billboard campaign, which was created in collaboration with graphic designer Rupert Smyth. The artists will work with institutions worldwide to put up billboards featuring images and text related to being a good neighbor beginning in March.

Elmgreen told Gökcan Demirkazık of artforum.com that they were quite surprised when the biennial asked them to curate the show, after having solicited a proposal from them. He said: “If you dare to let us, we will do it.” The biennial will be held from September 16 to November 12, 2017.

Click more for a Q&A between Elmgreen and Dragset and contributing writer Gökcan Demirkazık.

December 6, 2016

Heirs of Nazi-Persecuted Art Dealer File Suit Against Bavaria for Repatriation of 8 Paintings

Alfred Flechtheim in 1910.

Michael Hulton and his wife, Penny, heirs of Nazi-persecuted art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, have filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of New York against Bavaria and its state museums for the return of eight paintings by Max Beckmann, Juan Gris, and Paul Klee, valued at nearly $20 million.

The Nazis took the paintings from Flechtheim in 1933. Shortly afterward, the dealer fled Germany, first living in Paris and then London, where he died, impoverished, in 1937. His wife committed suicide just a few years later. His niece and mother-in-law also took their own lives in 1942.

The Hulton family’s lawyer, Nicholas M. O’Donnell, said, “Bavaria is completely out of step with the international community with respect to restitution of Nazi-looted art. Its refusal to return the Flechtheim paintings and avoid the resolution of this and other claims on the merits is an insult to the victims of the movement that began right in Munich. It is past time for Bavaria to do the right thing.” Bavaria has more than one thousand artworks connected to Nazi looting in their state collections—however, just under a dozen of those pieces have been returned to date.

December 6, 2016

Sharjah Biennial Reveals Participant List for 13th Edition

View of Sharjah Biennial Site

The Sharjah Biennial has announced the sixty artists and groups participating in its thirteenth edition. Curated by Christine Tohme, the biennial will initiate conversation and artistic production and will draw thematically on four keywords: water, crops, earth, and culinary. The biennial also involves four other sites: Dakar, Senegal; Ramallah, Palestine; Istanbul, Turkey; and Beirut, Lebanon. Tohme,
the founding director of Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, recently contributed a piece highlighting the “Best of 2016” to the December issue of Artforum. As was previously reported here, the biennial’s subtitle is “Tamawuj,” an Arabic word meaning a swelling, surging, or fluctuation.

The artists and groups participating in the upcoming biennial are as follows:

December 6, 2016

Jewish Family Fights with Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Over Pissarro Sold by Collector Fleeing Nazis

Camille Pissarro, Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie (Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain), 1897, oil on canvas, 32 x 25 1/2".

The Associated Press writes that Camille Pissarro’s Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie (Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain), 1897, which belonged to Lilly Cassirer, a Jewish woman who sold the work before fleeing the Third Reich in Germany, may have one more chance of being returned to Cassirer’s heirs. The painting currently sits in Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, where it has resided since 1993.

David Boies, the lawyer for Cassirer’s great-grandchildren, went before a federal appeals court on December 5 to argue that under international treaties and state law, the work should be returned to the plaintiffs. “This is an issue that is critically important not only in terms of trying to right terrible wrongs that had their origin in the Nazi persecution of the Jews but also to establish principles that are very important to what’s happening now in the world,” said Boies. The attorney for the museum, Thaddeus J. Stauber, says that the issue surrounding the work is no longer about looted art but the ownership rights to a painting that was purchased legally and honestly. According to Stauber, Cassirer lost all her rights to the painting when, in 1958, she accepted $13,000 from the German government for the work. Boies, however, argues that Cassirer had no idea the painting still existed in 1958 and therefore never officially signed away her rights to it. Cassirer’s family didn’t learn about the painting until 1999, when they found a picture of it in a museum catalogue.

The Pissarro was bought and sold a number of times before it ended up in the hands of Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the scion of a major steel fortune, who purchased it from New York art dealer Stephen Hahn in 1976. Thyssen-Bornemisza, who died in 2002, gave the painting, along with the rest of his massive art collection, to the Spanish government in 1993. Spain created the museum in his honor to house his works. The painting is considered to be worth more than $30 million.

December 6, 2016

Walters Art Museum Promotes Amy Landau to Director of Curatorial Affairs

Amy Landau.

Artdaily reports that Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum has promoted Amy Landau to director of curatorial affairs from her former position as associate curator of Islamic and South Asian art. In her new role, she will oversee seven full-time curators, museum fellows and interns, and registrars .

Eleanor Hughes, the museum’s deputy director of art and programming, said, “Amy is a rising star in a field that is of increasing importance in the world today. During her last seven years at the museum, Amy has shown extraordinary expertise and creativity in her thinking about the Walters’ collections through exhibitions and other collaborative projects. She has demonstrated initiative, flexibility, and most recently, leadership skills. These skills are crucial at a moment when we are hiring a suite of new curators and are moving toward a major reinstallation of the collections.”

Landau has organized many exhibitions at the Walters, including “Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters,” (2010), “Diadem and Dagger: Jewish Silversmiths of Yemen” (2012–13), “Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue” (2013), which traveled to New York’s Yeshiva University Museum in 2013–14, and “The Art of the Writing Instrument from Paris to Persia” (2011).

Landau received her doctorate in Islamic Art and Archeology and a master’s in Islamic Art and Archaeology, with distinction, from Oxford University.

December 6, 2016

Stolen Antiquities Discovered at Geneva Freeport

A bust of a priest discovered at the Geneva Free Port.

Antiquities stolen from ancient sites in Yemen, Libya, and Palmyra have been seized by Swiss authorities at the Geneva Freeport, writes Hannah McGivern of the Art Newspaper. The objects, which range from the fourth century BCE to the third century CE, were placed in clandestine tax-free warehouses between 2009 and 2010, said a public prosecutor in Geneva. The works—two funerary reliefs, a table, a pair of steles, and a bust of a priest, among other pieces—were discovered during a customs inspection in 2013 and verified by culture authorities last year in Bern. A criminal investigation into the artifacts ended on November 22, though no arrests were made. It is believed that six of the artworks were shipped from Qatar and the UAE to Switzerland.

The pieces are in fine condition and will be placed in Geneva’s Musée d’Art et d’Histore until they are repatriated to their countries of origin.

December 6, 2016

A Proposal for Giant Gilded Pigs to Obscure Sign on Trump Tower in Chicago

An illustration from New World Design’s proposal.

The firm New World Design has proposed that an installation of four large gilded levitating pigs obscure the Trump sign on the President-elect’s Chicago building on Wabash Avenue, writes Matthew Messner of the Architect’s Newspaper. The use of gold is omnipresent in Trump’s branding and interior design. In the proposal, the pigs will be placed on the eastern side of the building, facing Washington, DC. The four pigs symbolize each year of Trump’s first term in office. New World Design says the plan should “encourage folly” and ask “viewers to listen and make their own interpretations.” The firm is just blocks away from the tower, where protests against Trump’s entry into the White House continue. The Chicago City Council voted to take down the building’s signage in response to Trump comparing the city to “a war-torn country” during his first presidential debate.

December 6, 2016

Ferreira Gullar (1930–2016)

Ferreira Gullar

On December 4, the Brazilian poet and art critic Ferreira Gullar died from pneumonia, reports Hyperallergic’s Elisa Wouk Almino. In 1959, Gullar wrote the manifesto for Neo-concretism, the movement that sought to dismantle Concretism’s restrained and formal approaches to artmaking with gestures and structures that were more open-ended and participatory (Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, perhaps Neo-concretism’s most famous proponents, were also Gullar’s friends).

In 1964—the year the military violently overthrew the Brazilian government—Gullar, by then a member of the Communist party, abandoned Neo-concretism because he found it elitist. He also managed to escape Brazil’s merciless regime and lived in Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Moscow for various periods of time. During his itinerancy he conceived what many consider one of his most important works, the epic “Dirty Poem,” 1976—a nostalgic recollection of his childhood combined with horrific accounts of the Brazilian dictatorship—which was recently fully published in English by New Directions. In 1977, when Gullar returned to Brazil, he was imprisoned and tortured.

Gullar wrote for television and theater while authoring numerous essays, short stories, and many volumes of poetry, such as Um pouco acima do chão (A Little Above the Ground, 1949), Quem matou Aparecida? (Who Killed Aparecida?, 1962), Na vertigem do dia (In the Vertigo of the Day, 1980), and Muitas vozes (Many Voices, 1999). In 2009, Gullar wrote a poem based on a moment that jolted him utterly: seeing a version of himself in a mirror that he didn’t recognize. He felt this would be the last time he’d write a poem––which it was––as he “only [wanted to] write [poetry] with amazement.”

December 6, 2016

Director of Berlin’s Polish Institute Is Fired for Presenting “Jewish Themes”

Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska

Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska, the director of the Polish Institute in Berlin, has been fired for giving “too much attention [to] Jewish subjects” in the institution’s programming, Taz reports. Wielga-Skolimowska’s contract should have run until the summer of 2017.

Since she joined the organization as director in 2013, Wielga-Skolimowska has dealt with opposition from Poland’s right-wing government and the conservative deputy director, Małgorzata Bochwic-Ivanovska, who Warsaw appointed in the spring after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a negative assessment of the institute’s work. The ministry declared that the organization was not active enough on social media channels and presented too many Polish-Jewish issues. Bochwic-Ivanovska is currently serving as the interim director.

Among the issues that Poland’s government reacted to was Wielga-Skolimowska’s decision to screen Ida (2013). The film, which won an Academy Award in 2015, features a young woman in the 1960s who learns that she is Jewish and that her parents had been murdered by their Polish neighbors. The deputy director had tried to organize a showing of Smolensk (2016) instead—a propaganda feature that claimed that the 2010 crash the Polish presidential plane was a Russian terrorist act rather than an accident—but no Berlin theaters would take it.

PiS, Poland’s governing national conservative party, claims that the country’s twenty-four overseas institutes are supposed to promote Polish culture. The government has dismissed thirteen of the twenty-four directors just this summer.