Switzerland Earmarks $129 Million for Controversial Expansion of Geneva’s Museum of Art and History

Computer rendering of the renovation and expansion of Geneva's Museum of Art and History.

Geneva’s over one-hundred-year-old Museum of Art and History received unanimous support from city authorities for its $129 million renovation and expansion on Monday. Despite the approval of Geneva’s city officials, the project faces opposition from some heritage groups and politicians.

Critics are worried that the project is too ambitious and is bound to go over budget. There is also concern about the amount of funds coming from the private sector and whether this will threaten the city’s control over the museum, reports The Local. According to executive city councilor Sami Kanaan, private donors are contributing sixty-six million dollars, which is 51 percent of the cost. Thirty-nine million of those dollars were pledged by one man’s foundation—wealthy businessman and collector Jean Claude Gandur.

Meanwhile, cultural heritage groups are worried about the addition of a glass cube, which will be constructed inside the 1910 building. The cube may have a contemporary aesthetic, but French architect Jean Nouvel’s design will also create more floor space and allow the museum to display more of its collection. Currently, only 1.5 percent of its collection can be displayed at one time, Kanaan said.

Other aims of the redesign are to refurbish the historic building, increase coherence between the exhibition spaces and the collection, address museum accessibility for people with disabilities, and increase its public services by creating a library, rest areas, and a restaurant with panoramic views of the city.

The president of the state council of Geneva, François Longchamp, said the exciting and “audacious” project was an historic cultural opportunity that would not present itself again any time soon.

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June 23, 2017

Art Gallery of Ontario Acquires 522 Diane Arbus Photographs

Diane Arbus, _Female Impersonators in Mirrors, N.Y.C., 1958. Photo: The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) announced today that it has acquired 522 prints of photographs by Diane Arbus, the first works by the artist to enter its collection. Selected by AGO and purchased through the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, the collection spans the breadth of Arbus’s career. The museum’s new holdings include 221 prints made by Arbus and 301 prints made by Neil Selkirk, the only person authorized by the artist’s estate to make posthumous prints of her work.

The institution purchased rarely published or exhibited works such as Arbus’s early photographs from the mid-1950s, including Female Impersonators in Mirrors, N.Y.C., 1958, as well as works from the second phase of Arbus’s career—portraits of celebrities and luminaries like James Brown, Mia Farrow, Coretta Scott King, Norman Mailer, Marcello Mastroianni, Eugene McCarthy, and Mae West, which she captured for magazines such as Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar. Among the square-format photographs the museum purchased are Child with A Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962; Russian Midget Friends in A Living Room on 100th Street, N.Y.C., 1963; Puerto Rican Woman with a Beauty Mark, N.Y.C., 1965; and Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J., 1966.

“Diane Arbus is known for images that engage and entrance the viewer, revealing untold stories about her subjects but also making us think about ourselves,” said Stephan Jost, director, and CEO of AGO. “The expansion and development of our photography collection are a priority, and there is no better way to signal our intentions than with a transformational acquisition of this depth and breadth. We are incredibly grateful to our donors for their support, for a collection that is a gift to the AGO—and to the people of Ontario as well.”

June 23, 2017

UK to Digitize All of Its Public Sculptures by 2020

Brian Fell, All Hands, 2001, on Custom House Street in Cardiff. Photo: Katey Goodwin and Art UK

Britain has launched an initiative to digitize all of its publicly owned sculptures by 2020, making it the first country to create an online catalogue of its entire national sculpture collection.

This three-year initiative will make images of 170,000 sculptures from public collections in arts institutions and parks and public squares available on the website of Art UK, the registered name for the Public Catalogue Foundation, which has been digitizing works in the country since 2002.

Art UK has partnered with the BBC, the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Culture Street, Factum Foundation, the Royal British Society of Sculptors, the Royal Photographic Society, and VocalEyes to take on the project, which will focus on sculpture from the last thousand years.

June 23, 2017

Julia Peyton-Jones Joins Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac as Senior Global Director

Thaddaeus Ropac and Julia Peyton-Jones.

Former director of the Serpentine Galleries Julia Peyton-Jones has been appointed senior global director of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Peyton-Jones will be based in London where the gallery opened a new space in Mayfair earlier this year. She assume her responsibilities, which includes the creative development of the gallery, on September 1.

“Julia Peyton-Jones is one of the most respected and admired figures in the art world with an unparalleled level of experience,” Thaddaeus Ropac said. “It will be an honor and a joy to work together and develop exciting new projects.”

After twenty-five years at the helm of Serpentine Galleries, Peyton-Jones resigned as director in October 2015. She first joined the gallery in 1991 and led the space for fifteen years. In 2006, Hans Ulrich Obrist became codirector. According to The Guardian, Peyton-Jones said her proudest achievement as director had been to maintain free admission to the gallery as well as to present contemporary art to a wide audience.

June 23, 2017

OMA Reveals Design for Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery Expansion

Design rendering of Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery expansion.

The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the Rotterdam-based firm that was selected to lead Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery $80 million expansion and renovation project has announced its plans for the institution’s campus.

Dubbed AK360, the project is the museum’s first expansion in more than half a century. It was made possible after Buffalo-based billionaire Jeffrey Gundlach made a historic donation of $42.5 million, which helped the institution raise an unprecedented $103 million in the twelve weeks that followed the announcement of his gift.

Located in Delaware Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the museum aims to better integrate its building with the landscape. “A key question we have been challenging ourselves and our architects with is where should we build,” museum director Janne Siren told Rachele Mongiovi of News 4.

Architect Shohei Shigematsu came up with a plan to expand the museum by 50,000 square feet without compromising any of the parkland. The museum, which is currently only able to exhibit 2.5 percent of its collection at a time, will add two main galleries. One will be built above its sculpture garden, and the second space will be built underground, underneath the current parking lot, which will be transformed into an outdoor exhibition space. The new parking lot will also be constructed underground.

June 23, 2017

Benjamin Sullivan Wins 2017 BP Portrait Award

Benjamin Sullivan, Breech!, 2017.

Artist Benjamin Sullivan’s painting of his wife breastfeeding their eight-month-old daughter has won this year’s BP Portrait Award, the National Portrait Gallery in London’s top prize. Breech!, is the artist’s thirteenth work to be shortlisted for the gallery’s prize exhibition. Sullivan will receive $38,000 and a forthcoming commission from the institution.

Sullivan said he wanted the portrait to celebrate the arrival of their daughter, as well as mark the difficult time his wife had while giving birth to Edith. It was painted over the course of several weeks when a “sense of calm descended” on the couple.

French artist Thomas Ehretsmann received the $12,000 second prize for his work Double Portrait, which depicts the head and shoulders of his wife, Caroline, who was eight months pregnant at the time, and the $10,000 third prize went to Antony Williams for Emma, a portrait of the artist’s friend. The prize exhibition, which opened on June 22, will run until September 24, and then will travel to Exeter, Edinburgh, and Sunderland.

June 23, 2017

London’s White Rainbow Gallery Closes Its Doors

Installation view of “Ingeborg Lüscher, It’s 1 o’clock and the Bell Tolls Eight Times” (November 2016–January 2017). Photo: White Rainbow

The Central London gallery White Rainbow, which opened in 2014, has announced that it will permanently close. “We thank all of our artists, who have challenged, inspired and motivated us throughout,” White Rainbow said in a statement. “The gallery would be nowhere without them.”

White Rainbow told artforum.com that it does not have any future projects planned at this time, but it will continue with its research activities. Over the years, the gallery presented a range of artists, with a focus on contemporary art from Japan. Often showcasing works by Japanese artists never before seen in the UK, the gallery aimed to raise awareness of Japanese post-war art history and its relationship to international art movements. “Minimalist Anyway,” an exhibition of works by Lydia Okumura and Kazuko Miyamoto, which closed on June 10, was the galley’s final exhibition.

June 22, 2017

Congresswoman Wants to Forgive Arts Professionals’ Student Debt

Participants at a demonstration against the normalization of more than trillion in student debt, which took place at the Whitney Biennial on Friday, May 5. Photo: Occupy Museums

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez is working to help artists reduce their student loan debt by as much as $10,000. If the American Arts Revival Act is passed it will also extend federal public service loan forgiveness to cultural workers, museum professionals, and certain arts and humanities professors who work with children, adolescents, and seniors.

“Those working in the arts and related fields make invaluable contributions to New York City and to our entire nation,” Velázquez said. “Individuals that dedicate themselves to these professions enrich our culture and my bill would provide many of them with relief from mounting student loan debt.”

The average debt for a graduate specializing in art, music, and design averages at nearly $22,000. According to Occupy Museums—whose ongoing project Debtfair asks artists who are struggling to stay out of the red to share their experiences—artists today are grappling with a total running debt that exceeds $55 million.

June 22, 2017

World Monuments Fund Launches Initiative to Train Refugees in Conservation

Ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra. Photo: AP

The World Monuments Fund has secured $680,000 to train refugees from Syria and Jordan in conservation skills in order to rebuild cultural heritage sites devastated by ISIS and other conflicts. The award is part of the British Council and the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport’s $38 million fund to safeguard heritage and the arts.

To launch the initiative, the World Monuments Fund and its British affiliate, World Monuments Fund Britain, will work with Petra National Trust in Jordan to open a training facility. The organizations will recruit a group of candidates who can then serve as mentors to other refugees taking part in the eighteen-month program.

“In recent years we’ve witnessed the devastating impacts of human conflict on the Syrian people and their treasured cultural sites, and we are eager to help renew community strength through this exciting new initiative,” Joshua David, president and CEO of the World Monuments Fund, said.

June 22, 2017

Sunday Painter Gallery Relocates to London’s Vauxhall District

Will Jarvis and Harry Beer.

Alex Greenberger of Artnews writes that Sunday Painter gallery in London will move from the Peckham neighborhood to the Vauxhall district where Tate Britain as well as the galleries Cabinet, Greengrassi, and Corvi Mora are located. An exhibition by American painter Cynthia Daignault will inaugurate its new space.

Cofounded by artists Will Jarvis and Harry Beer in 2009, the gallery first started out as a project space, which evolved into a commercial gallery in 2013. The name of the gallery was inspired by an insult that was thrown at the gallerists when they were studying art at Camberwell University. Someone called them “Sunday painters” for pushing back against the school’s attempt to make studio practice fit a more academic format.