Saudi Arabia Revokes Death Sentence for Ashraf Fayadh

Ashraf Fayadh

A Saudi Arabian court has revoked the death sentence meted out to Palestinian artist, curator, and poet Ashraf Fayadh, who was accused of apostasy based on the content of his poetry book Instruction Within, 2008, according to The Guardian’s David Batty. Fayadh, instead, will be facing eight years in prison—and 800 lashes, stretched out over sixteen occasions.

Tate Modern’s former director, Chris Dercon, and actor Helen Mirren were among those asking for his release.

Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, which also campaigned for Fayadh’s release, said: “It is a relief that Ashraf Fayadh no longer faces execution, but this is a wholly disproportionate and shocking sentence.”

The thirty-five-year-old Saudi-born Palestinian refugee is part of the art group Edge of Arabia, and helped curate a show at the 2013 Venice Biennale.


February 21, 2017

Michael Werner to Receive Rank of Chevalier from France’s Legion of Honor

Michael Werner. Photo: Andrea Stappert.

Art dealer Michael Werner, who has galleries in New York, London, and Märkisch Wilmersdorf in Germany, will receive France’s Legion of Honor in the rank of chevalier at a private ceremony on the evening of February 22 in Berlin. The honor is being given in recognition of Werner’s tremendous contributions to the arts. The award is France’s highest decoration.

Werner donated 130 artworks in 2012 to the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. The museum’s director, Fabrice Hergott, said the gift was “the most significant enrichment of the museum’s collection since the bequest made by Dr. Maurice Giradin in 1953, which led to the creation of the institution.” In 2015, Werner collaborated with the museum for a major retrospective on German artist Markus Lüpertz, who will receive his first US retrospective this summer—a joint effort presented by the Hirshhorn Museum and the Phillips Collection, co-organized by Michael Werner Gallery.

February 21, 2017

Andrea Rosen Will Close Her Gallery and Co-Represent the Estate of Félix González-Torres with David Zwirner

Art dealer Andrea Rosen.

In a letter delivered to her gallery’s many admirers, Andrea Rosen has announced that she will be closing her space to share the duties of representing the estate of Félix González-Torres with David Zwirner.

“While the gallery will continue to exist, with selective activities, like the representation of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, I will no longer have a typical permanent public space and therefore no longer represent living artists. This transition will transpire over the next few months,” states Rosen. “Of course my wish would have been to try to incorporate the depth of my growing intentions within my current immersive and beloved structure. As most people know, the gallery has been all-consuming to me, always very happily, even when at the expense of much else. I have always felt that being open to the public and supporting artists was the perfect conduit for everything I care about. Yet I realized that the only way to be truly available and . . . set an example for my daughter of what it means to try to be an active, kind, and connected citizen, or to try and live without ethical compromise requires time and the simplification of my life. While it will take a new form, I am one of those rare lucky people who loves and considers my work to be the vehicle for growth and contribution.”

The last exhibition of González-Torres’s work at the gallery—curated by artists Julie Ault and Roni Horn—was a collaborative endeavor with Hauser & Wirth in London and Massimo De Carlo in Milan. The tripartite exhibition took place last summer.

You may read the entirety of Rosen’s letter below:

February 21, 2017

Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation Appoint Sara Reisman and Alex Gardner to New Executive Directorial Positions

Sara Reisman and Alex Gardner.

The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation announced today that Sara Reisman will be the foundation’s new executive and artistic director. Alex Gardner has been appointed the executive director of the foundation’s Treasury of Lives, one of the largest biographical encyclopedias of Tibet, Inner Asia, and the Himalayan region.

In her new role, Reisman will be an administrator for many of the foundation’s interests, such as its art and social justice program, which seeks to broaden access to art and culture throughout New York City via funding and new initiatives. Reisman will also oversee the foundation's yearly grants program, which supports artistic activism, arts education, art in community and service centers, community-based museums, and public art. “As the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation’s executive and artistic director, I'm proud to further its art and social justice initiative to expand artistic and cultural access in New York City,” said Reisman. “The idea that artists and cultural producers can act as catalysts for social change is at the core of Foundation's mission, and I strongly believe that the work we support through philanthropic means is essential.”

Alex Gardner will continue to expand the Treasury of Lives database. It currently contains more than 1,150 biographies written by more than ninety international scholars. “The Treasury of Lives has become one of the premier resources for scholars, educators, and anyone interested in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism,” says Gardner. “I'm excited to focus on developing this resource as a way to raise further awareness of the deep history and enriching value of Tibetan and Himalayan cultures, of which Shelley and Donald Rubin have been longtime supporters and advocates.”

February 21, 2017

Suzan-Lori Parks and Rashid Johnson Collaborate to Make Richard Wright’s Novel Native Son into a Movie

Rashid Johnson and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Writer Suzan-Lori Parks and artist Rashid Johnson will be collaborating to make Richard Wright’s 1940 novel Native Son into a movie. Johnson will direct, and Parks will write the adaptation for the screen. Bow and Arrow Entertainment, run by Matthew Perniciaro and Michael Sherman, acquired the rights to the book and will produce the film. Julia and Malcolm Wright, Richard Wright’s daughter and grandson, will serve as consultants on behalf of Richard Wright’s estate.

This is not the first time Parks has written for the screen—she wrote the screenplay for Spike Lee’s 1996 comedy Girl 6 and adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 book Their Eyes Were Watching God for film. Parks received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2001 and was the first African American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her play Topdog/Underdog (2001).

Rashid Johnson is represented by the gallery Hauser & Wirth and is the first artist to be appointed to the board of trustees for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum in almost forty years. For the artist’s exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in New York last fall, titled “Fly Away,” Ian Bourland wrote in an Critics’ Pick: “Whether the show constitutes the sort of ambivalent critique from within of his forebears or a more solipsistic deployment of his personal history isn’t entirely clear, and, for that reason, it is an important provocation in pressing conversations about identity, memory, and power in contemporary art.”

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,” according to a statement released by the prize’s organizers. 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 included 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 immigrated 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 Cut 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 in the decision.

Grants provide theater companies up to about $6,200 annually. The council calculates that halting funding would save them nearly $540,000 by the year 2020. Equity is 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 rainwater 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.”