Rasel Chowdhury Receives Dhaka Art Summit’s Samdani Art Award

Rasel Chowdhury

The Dhaka Art Summit, which opens today and runs through February 8, has just announced that photographer Rasel Chowdhury, selected from a shortlist of thirteen artists, is the winner of this year’s Samdani Art Award. Chowdhury will be given a three-month, all expenses paid residency with the Delfina Foundation in London. The biannual award “aims to support, promote, and highlight Bangladeshi contemporary art and showcase the work of talented emerging artists between the ages of twenty-two and forty who live and work in Bangladesh.”

Says Tate Modern director Frances Morris, “The Dhaka Summit has rapidly become an important focus for artists from South Asia and beyond and this year is attracting widespread international attention. The Samdani Foundation have done an amazing job in combining new research, artistic production and creative collaboration . . . . I am personally looking forward to making discoveries and encountering new perspectives in Dhaka.” 


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January 21, 2018

Jack Whitten (1939–2018)

Jack Whitten. Photo: Peter Bellamy.

Jack Whitten, a conceptual painter who tested the medium’s limits for more than five decades, has died at seventy-eight. The artist, awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2016 for “remaking the American canvas,” was dubbed the father of new abstraction by the New York Times. Throughout his career, Whitten eschewed the popular or marketable for what interested him philosophically, and was largely unrecognized by the mainstream until recent years, following a major 2014 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, California.

Born in segregated Bessemer, Alabama, in 1939, Whitten became engaged in activism while he was a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before moving to New York in 1960 to attend Cooper Union. There, influenced by Willem de Kooning and Norman Lewis, he started making his earliest paintings, vaguely figural impressions that reflected on the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam. It was in the 1970s that Whitten became interested in abstraction, experimenting with forms of painting without conventionally gestural elements by employing combs, metal sheets, laminations, rakes, and a 12-foot-long squeegee to administer acrylic on large canvases. These pieces, which he called his “Slab” works, were displayed in the lobby of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974 for the artist’s first solo show. 

Whitten would later reference ancient mosaics in his art, combining chips of dried acrylic into monumental portraits of people important to him, like Ralph Ellison and Miles Davis. In more recent works, this technique was used by Whitten to address the geometries of digital technology, as in his 2011 painting Apps for Obama, shown at Alexander Gray Associates in 2011. Since 2016, Whitten has been represented by Hauser & Wirth, where an exhibition of his work was shown early last year. Although deeply immersed in the possibilities of abstraction, Whitten’s art consistently involved a political dimension, an aspect he credited to growing up as an African American in the segregated South.

January 19, 2018

Tacoma Art Museum Names David Setford Executive Director

David Setford. Photo: the Tacoma Art Museum.

The Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) in Washington announced today that David Setford has been appointed as its new executive director. Setford will take up the post on March 5. He succeeds Mark Holcomb, who served as interim director since January, when Stephanie Stebich stepped down in order to join the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Setford joins TAM from the Spanish Colonial Arts Society and Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During his tenure as executive director there, Setford organized “Mirror, Mirror: Photographs of Frida Kahlo” (2017), which tripled attendance at the museum. Commenting on the show, Setford said that it “served as a catalyst for fantastic community engagement. I look forward to continuing with similar efforts at TAM.”

TAM is currently in the process of adding a new $14 million wing that is being funded by philanthropist Rebecca Benaroya. The more than 7,000-square-foot wing will house the Benaroya family’s holdings of 225 artworks. Designed by Seattle architect Tom Kundig, the addition is expected to open in 2019. Benaroya also established an endowment for the care of the collection and the appointment of a curator.

January 19, 2018

Stedelijk Museum Calls Off Ettore Sottsass Retrospective

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Photo: Benthem Crouwel Architects.

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam announced today that it has canceled a retrospective of the late Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. The institution cited disagreements with the gallery representing Sottsass and his heirs over the choice of the exhibition concept as the reason. The show, which was supposed to open this spring, would have been the first major Dutch overview of the Italian designer’s work.

The museum had planned to present a thematic exhibition that would have showcased Sottsass’s designs from different decades and disciplines, highlighting his influence on younger generations and displaying work by designers who were members of the Memphis Group, which Sottsass founded in 1980. However, Sottsass’s gallery and descendants decided they no longer wished to collaborate on the project and rescinded their offer to loan works as well as their consent to allow the publication of the designer’s texts. While the museum could have still staged the exhibition, since it owns eighty objects by Sottsass that span the spectrum of his oeuvre, it did not want to continue without the cooperation of all parties.

Commenting on the situation, interim director Jan Willem Sieburgh said, “I regret that the museum felt compelled to take this decision. We were looking forward to working with the heirs to produce an exceptional, public-friendly exhibition about Ettore Sottsass. Months of discussions, however, proved fruitless. As a museum, we cannot and will not allow the way in which we conceive our exhibitions to be dictated to us. The heirs and the gallery owner gave too little scope for interpretations we wished to explore in the presentation. When all is said and done, analysis and research remain at the heart of a museum’s core academic mission.”

January 19, 2018

French Village Urges Metropolitan Museum to Return Religious Bust

Reliquary bust of Saint Yrieix, ca. 1220-40.

Daniel Boisserie, mayor of the French village Saint-Yrieix-La-Perche, sent a letter to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on January 10 officially demanding the return of a thirteenth-century gold and silver reliquary which he claims belongs to the town, according to The Local. The piece, a jewel-inlaid bust that purportedly once held the bones of Saint Yrieix, was purchased by J.P. Morgan in 1907 from an English antique dealer before being donated to the Metropolitan Museum’s collection in 1917. One year before the religious artifact entered Morgan’s custody, it is thought that a parish priest replaced the original relic with a copy in Saint-Yrieix-La-Perche, whose population is around seven thousand. Until the 1950s, the village was unaware that its bust was a reproduction.

Boisserie asserts that the reliquary was seized from France illicitly and is hoping to resolve the conflict in an amicable way with the Met, which has not yet released a statement about the situation. “The sale and exportation outside of France of the reliquary of Saint Yrieix were carried out unlawfully around May 1906,” Judith Kagan, France’s bureau chief of conservation of moveable and instrumental heritage, told Artnet. Boisserie warned that if the Met fails to restitute the reliquary, the village might take civil action against the museum.

January 19, 2018

Bruce Weber Retrospective Canceled in Germany Following Harassment Claims

Bruce Weber.

A retrospective of Bruce Weber’s work at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg has been called off after fifteen allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation were directed at the fashion photographer, according to Artnet. Last week, the New York Times reported the accounts of fifteen former and current male models who described coercive sexual behavior and unwanted nudity while working with Weber. The accusations span the entirety of his four-decade career, but the seventy-one-year old photographer denies the allegations.

“We will definitely not show Bruce Weber this year,” Diechtorhallen spokesperson Angelika Leu-Barthel told the German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt. “An exhibition planned with Bruce Weber is put on hold until allegations of sexual misconduct against him will be clarified,” she added in an email to Artnet.

Slated to open in late October and organized by the Hamburger Haus der Photographie, the exhibition was to be titled “Far From Home.” News of its cancelation comes days after Condé Nast announced that it would effectively ban Weber from working with its publications. As a substitute for the retrospective, the Haus der Photographie plans to mount an exhibition by the German-American photographer Michael Wolf.

January 19, 2018

Artistic Director of London’s Southbank Center Steps Down

Jude Kelly.

After twelve years as artistic director of the Southbank Center, a cultural complex on the south bank of the Thames river in London, Jude Kelly has announced that she will step down in order to focus on expanding the Women of the World festival, a UK-based event that celebrates the achievements of women, which she founded in 2010.

Kelly first joined Southbank Center in 2006. During her tenure, she put together a program that included a range of annual festivals such as Alchemy, which recognizes the art and culture of South Asia, and Africa Utopia, which presents African art. Jude was awarded a CBE in 2015 for services to the arts and has received seventeen honorary doctorates in recognition of her work promoting access to culture. She was also bestowed the title of Knighthood of the Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark for promoting Danish culture after she spearheaded the Southbank’s year-long Nordic Matters festival.

“It is difficult to imagine a more stimulating and enjoyable time than the twelve years I’ve spent here—and I shall miss it terribly,” Kelly said in a statement. “With the Southbank Center in excellent hands, now is the perfect time for me to move on.” Chief executive Elaine Bedell, director of music Gillian Moore, and director of the Hayward Gallery Ralph Rugoff will be charged with running the center’s artistic program until a new artistic director is appointed.

January 19, 2018

Columbus State University Opens New Arts Center

Installation view of Bo Bartlett works at the new Bo Bartlett Center at the Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.

The Bo Bartlett Center, an 18,500-square-foot interactive gallery space, was inaugurated at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia on Thursday, January 18. Located on the school’s River Park campus, the former textile warehouse turned arts center was designed by American architect Tom Kundig, owner of the Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig Architects.

The facility was conceived as a partnership between the university and American realist painter Bo Bartlett. In addition to a rotating program of exhibitions, lectures, and other events, the center will also offer an annual master class with the artist, to be offered every spring, and will develop a second master class with visiting artists to be offered in the fall. It will house more than three-hundred paintings and drawings by Bartlett as well as the complete archive of his sketch books, photographs, journals, and other objects related to his artistic practice.

“By combining the exhibition elements of a contemporary art museum with the master instruction of a living American painter of international stature, his major works and the insights of his archives, the Bo Bartlett Center will be an unparalleled resource for students, the public, and scholars of art,” the venue’s website reads.

January 19, 2018

Basel Art Museum Revisits Restitution Claim Made in 2008

Basel Art Museum in Switzerland.

The Basel Art Museum in Switzerland is revisiting a 2008 restitution bid made by the heirs of Curt Glaser, a prominent collector who was forced to auction artworks he owned in 1933 after he was dismissed from his job as head of the Prussian State Art Library. The institution had originally rejected the claim, and said that there was “absolutely no evidence” that the works in question belonged to Glaser, but it has since backtracked.

According to Reuters, the discovery of new documents related to Glaser’s collection prompted the institution’s director to create a task force that will reopen the case and investigate the heirs’ claims. It will focus on gathering evidence and will look into how the museum arrived at its decision to dismiss the claim ten years ago. The museum’s holdings include 120 drawings and prints that were once owned by Glaser, including an Edvard Munch lithograph titled Madonna.

“We hope [the restitution claim] won’t be put on the backburner, so everybody forgets about it again,” said Valerie Sattler, a great-niece of Glaser. A spokesperson for the institution said that it is working to arrange a meeting with the family. Felix Uhlmann, president of the museum’s art commission, said that it could take six months or more for the institution to make at a decision.

January 18, 2018

Ed Moses (1926–2018)

Ed Moses. Photo: Kwaku Alston.

Ed Moses, the rebellious postwar painter whose eclectic career spanned five decades and earned him legendary status on the West Coast, has died at ninety-one. Moses, who continued making art until his death, is considered one of the most innovative artists of his generation and a fixture in the Los Angeles art scene.

Born in Long Beach, California in 1926, he joined the US Navy in 1944 before enrolling as a pre-med student on the GI Bill. He took up painting when he failed to qualify for medical school and had his first solo exhibition at Los Angeles’s Ferus Gallery in 1958. Moses belonged to the “cool school” of avant-garde painters that showed at Ferus, which opened in 1957. Along with his contemporaries—Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, and Robert Irwin, among others—Moses helped transform the city into an arts hub.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Moses displayed an interest in gestural abstraction, often combining Asian and European influences. In addition to painting, he taught art at the University of California, Los Angeles, intermittently from 1968 to 1976. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1976 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984.