Documentary Featuring Jihadists Confronts Censorship in France

It is still unknown whether the French documentary film, Salafistes, will open in cinemas on its scheduled release date of January 27th according to Le Figaro.

Shot between 2012–2015 in Mali, Mauritius, and Tunisia, the film intercuts jihadists discussing their ideologies with ISIS propaganda videos and amateur footage of the September 11th attacks in New York and the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

The film has already been the subject of a polemical debate in France. It was given rating of 18+ (extremely rare for a documentary), it has been recut to omit a scene showing the execution of the Parisian police officer stationed outside of the Charlie Hebdo offices on January 7, 2015, and is now awaiting approval of the French Culture Minister before it will open.

Speaking on French radio yesterday, filmmakers François Margolin and Lemine Ould Salem defended their documentary. Margolin said, “We are not advocating terrorism, we are just showing a discourse that exists.”

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May 22, 2017

National Endowment of the Humanities Chair William D. Adams Resigns

William D. Adams

William D. Adams, the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, announced today that he is stepping down so that he can pursue scholarship opportunities and spend more time with his family in Falmouth, Maine. Nominated by former president Barack Obama in April 2014, Adams was confirmed by the United States Senate three months later. Deputy chair Margaret Plympton will serve as acting chair.

“Leading this important organization has been one of the most exciting and gratifying experiences of my life,” Adams said. “I’m especially appreciative of the excellent and dedicated staff of the agency, who taught me so much about the importance of the humanities and the innovative and meaningful work that is going on at NEH and across the country.”

Shortly after arriving at the agency from Colby College where he served as president for fourteen years, Adams launched a special initiative called “Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square,” which seeks to demonstrate the relevance of the humanities to the challenges of contemporary life. “We wanted to show how important the humanities are to the really big questions that we’re grappling with as a country and indeed as a global community,” Adams said. “In these divided political times, we also wanted to remind people of the idea of the common good and to make clear how the humanities might serve to bring citizens together in advancing the general welfare of the country.”

May 22, 2017

Columbia University Organizes New Triennial for Artists Based in Upper Manhattan

The Lenfest Center for the Arts

Maximilíano Durón of Artnews reports that the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in New York is launching “Uptown,” a contemporary art triennial that will showcase works by artists who are known for living or working in upper Manhattan.

Organized by Deborah Cullen, the director and chief curator of the Wallach, “Uptown” opens June 2 and will be held through August 20. Its inaugural edition will feature sixty-six artists, including Sanford Biggers, Jaime Davidovich, Julie Mehretu, and Nari Ward.

“It’s really an important initiative for the gallery, the university, and the broader community,” Cullen said. “It’s a no-brainer, really, to have a format, a regular mechanism for the gallery to work with the boarder community. . . . Our neighbors, the local community should be our first audience.”

May 22, 2017

Elmhurst Art Museum Executive Director Steps Down and Joins Sotheby’s Institute of Art

Jenny Gibbs

Jenny Gibbs will be stepping down from her post as head of the Elmhurst Art Museum in Illinois at the end of this summer to become director of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art’s graduate program in New York. Gibbs will maintain a position at EAM as consulting director of exhibitions and programs, and the EAM board of directors will announce a new executive director later this summer. She became the museum’s fourth executive director in 2014, during which time museum attendance doubled and donations increased 30 percent as Gibbs secured several major gifts and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Graham Foundation, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Among the exhibitions Gibbs organized are “David Wallace Haskins: Presence” (2016), “Playboy Architecture: 1953 to 1979” (2016), “Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art” (2016), “Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago, Sense of Place” (2017), and the current exhibition “The Human Touch: Selections from the RBC Wealth Management Collection.” Gibbs also led the ongoing restoration of Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House, 1952, which is part of the institution’s collection, and expanded the museum’s exhibition space and public programs. In her new role as consulting director of exhibitions at EAM, she will continue to oversee the restoration of the McCormick House as well as such upcoming exhibitions as “Mies in Chicago,” curated by Barry Bergdoll, and a solo show of new work by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley, opening in fall 2017.

May 22, 2017

Kurt Schwitters’s Merz Barn Under Threat

Kurt Schwitters’s Merz Barn in England.

Amah-Rose Abrams reports in the Art Newspaper that Kurt Schwitters’s last remaining Merz Barn, located in the Lake District of northern England, may be sold on the open market after Arts Council England (ACE) rejected a funding application for the site for the fourth time. The artists Ian Hunter and Celia Larner, who run and maintain the site as the charity the Littoral Arts Trust, believe it should be preserved and kept open to the public rather than sold, but are struggling with its upkeep due to a lack of funds.

After three rejections by the ACE, Hunter and Larner were formally invited to apply for another round of funding by the former ACE president Sir Peter Bazalgette. They were also paid approximately $44,000 to take part in an independent study regarding future funding, 45% of which they had to match. The ACE has supported the project over the years with about $312,000 in disbursements so far. Other funding has been repeatedly rejected though since the only completed interior wall of the Merz Barn—Schwitters worked there with the intention of transforming the whole building into a work of art—was removed in 1958 and placed in the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne due to risk of damage at its original location.

In 2016, after the barn was severely damaged during a storm, Hunter launched an appeal and raised about $84,000 for repairs. Galerie Gmurzynska, which hosted a Schwitters exhibition last summer, donated about $32,000 to the cause at the request of the late architect Zaha Hadid, while the rest was donated by local foundations and other international donors. At that time, the Littoral Arts Trust had no funding and was supporting the project through artists’ pensions and proceeds from the sale of one of the trust’s founder’s homes. Hunter and Larner are looking to draw the public’s attention to the Merz Barn and highlight its value as a cultural site by keeping it permanently open to visitors. The site used to be open from 10 AM until 5 PM when staffed, and visitors could call ahead to ensure entry.

May 22, 2017

Stanley Brouwn (1935–2017)

Stanley Brouwn

The Dutch paper de Volkskrant reports that the Conceptual artist Stanley Brouwn has died. His death was confirmed by Konrad Fischer Galerie, which represented him in Düsseldorf and Berlin. Though he was recently featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2009 exhibition “In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960-1976,” Brouwn did not allow his work to be reproduced and is generally not well known. For most of his career, he also declined to give interviews or be photographed. He was born in 1935 in Suriname and moved to Amsterdam in 1957. As an example of the nature of his practice, he once decreed that all of the shoe stores in the capital of the Netherlands were his art, for a work in 1960.

A friend introduced him to the ZERO movement, founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, and Brouwn’s first works, which he later destroyed, were transparent polythene bags filled with different sorts of odds and ends and hung from the ceiling. For another early piece he laid paper sheets on the street for an unsuspecting cyclist or pedestrian to create the work as they went over them. For his 1960s series “This Way Brouwn,” the artist would approach passersby and ask them to draw directions to a particular place on a piece of paper. He would then print on each drawing with a stamp that said “This way Brouwn.” Blank pages on which someone hadn’t drawn anything, because they didn’t know how to give the directions, were also considered works by the artist.

Brouwn taught at the Kunstakademie Hamburg for years, and had a major retrospective in 2005 at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He was also included in Documenta 5, 6, 7, and 11. For more on Brouwn, see Lisa Pasquariello’s review of his solo show in New York from the March 2006 issue of Artforum.

May 19, 2017

Frick Collection Spearheads Effort to Digitize Millions of Artworks

Member of PHAROS convened at the Frick Collection in 2013. Photo: PHAROS, the International Consortium of Photo Archives

The Frick Collection is leading an international collaboration to transform art historical research by digitizing twenty-five million images of artworks for a new research platform. The Frick has teamed up with thirteen arts institutions to establish PHAROS Art Research Consortium, which plans to have seven million images available online by 2020.

PHAROS currently comprises the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome; Bildarchiv Foto in Marburg, Germany; the Courtauld Institute in London; Fondazione Federico Zeri in Bologna; Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles; I Tatti in Florence; Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris; Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz; National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC; Paul Mellon Centre in London; RKD—Netherlands Institute for Art History at The Hague; the Warburg Institute in London; the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven; and the Frick Art Reference Library in New York.

“The Frick has always been at the vanguard of art historical research,” said director Ian Wardropper. “As early as 1922, Helen Clay Frick personally organized international photographic expeditions to record significant and rarely reproduced works of art, creating the first-ever public repository of its kind in the country. This documentation proved invaluable, especially at a time when most art history books were not widely available or heavily illustrated. Researchers today are accustomed to having online resources at their fingertips, and in order to ensure that our offerings remain relevant and accessible, they must be digitized and catalogued in a searchable central resource. It is our hope that this initiative will transform scholarship in the twenty-first century, by unlocking access to our collection and ones like it around the globe.”

May 19, 2017

Jane South Named Chair of Fine Arts Department at Pratt Institute

Jane South

Jane South has been appointed chair of the Fine Arts Department within the School of Art at Pratt Institute in New York. She will assume the role on July 1, succeeding current chair Deborah Bright, who is stepping down to focus on her artistic practice and scholarship.

“Jane South has an impressive background in combining her leadership experience of Fine Arts programs in the US and Europe with her experience as a practicing artist whose work cuts across disciplines and reflects the intersectional nature of contemporary arts practice,” said Gerry Snyder, dean of the School of Art. “Her dynamic and collaborative approach will benefit the Fine Arts Department’s thriving community of students and faculty, and continue to expand the development and visibility of its undergraduate and graduate programs.”

South brings extensive experience as both an artist and educator to the position. She currently teaches in the Film, Animation, and Video Department at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she has also taught sculpture, painting, and digital media. Previously, she served as head of sculpture at RISD; cocreative director of CoLAB, a summer performance laboratory offered by Brown University and RISD from 2015 to 2016; and associate director of Italy’s Siena Art Institute since 2011. South has also held visiting teaching positions and has been a visiting artist at a number of institutions including Pratt Institute, Williams College, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Brandeis University.

May 19, 2017

Crystal Bridges Museum Establishes Fund for Education Initiatives with $15 Million Gift

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas announced today that it received a $15 million gift from the Windgate Charitable Foundation in support of education initiatives. The institution will use the donation to set up the Arts Endowed Fund, which will work towards identifying challenges that schools are facing today and developing arts-based initiatives to overcome them.

“The Windgate Foundation has been visionary in advancing education through the arts,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Crystal Bridges. “We are honored to receive this generous gift that allows us to address learning outcomes through innovative approaches. This fund is precedent-setting in drawing upon art museums’ unique resources as a catalyst for change.”

An advisory board was established to determine which issues the fund will address. It consists of Sarah Cunningham, executive director for research at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts and founding director of the Arts Research Institute; David A. Dik, national executive director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning; Jean Hendrickson, Oklahoma A+ Schools director emeritus; Sage Morgan-Hubbard, Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums & P-12 Education at the American Alliance of Museums; Dr. Deborah B. Reeve, executive director of the National Art Education Association; Mario Rossero, senior vice president for education at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Sherman Whites, director of education initiatives at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; and Jane Best, director of the Arts Education Partnership and the board chair.

May 19, 2017

Dana Lixenberg Wins Deutsche Börse Photography Prize

Installation view of Dana Lixenberg’s “Imperial Courts, 1993–2015,” at Amsterdam’s Huis Marseille. Photo: Yoko Choy

Dutch photographer Dana Lixenberg has won the twentieth edition of the Deutsche Börse Foundation Photography Prize for her project “Imperial Courts, 1993–2015,” a portrait series of residents of the social housing project in Watts, Los Angeles, which she first visited after the 1992 race riots. The 2017 winner was announced at an award ceremony at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. Lixenberg will also receive a nearly $40,000 prize.

“Lixenberg’s work is simultaneously understated and emphatic, reflecting a cool sobriety, which allows her subjects to own the gaze and their contexts without sentimentality or grandiosity,” Brett Rogers, the director of the Photographers’ Gallery in London and jury chair, said.

The New York and Amsterdam-based artist is known for pursuing long term projects that focus on individuals and communities on the margins of society. Lixenberg began photographing the Imperial Courts in 1993 and continued to document the neighborhood for the next twenty-two years. A photo essay of her earliest portraits from the project was first published in the November 1993 edition of Vibe magazine, and after producing work for more than two decades, her photo book “Imperial Courts, 1993–2015,” was published by Roma Publications in 2015.