Cornelis Zitman (1926–2016)

Cornelis Zitman, L'inconnue, 1972

Dutch-born Venezuelan artist Cornelis Zitman has died. After beginning his career as a technical draftsman, he began making sculptures and won Veneuela's National Sculpture Prize in 1951. His works are in the National Art Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas in Venezuela, as well as in the Musée Maillol in Paris. His art has appeared in the Săo Paulo Biennial, and in solo shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas and the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá.

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February 23, 2017

Protesters Urge New York’s MoMA to Remove Trump Advisor from Its Board

Protesters outside of MoMA, New York, on Friday, February 17. Photo: Hrag Vartanian

Last week dozens of protesters marched to New York’s MoMA demanding that the museum remove CEO of Blackrock and Trump advisor Larry Fink from it board, Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic reports. As head of Blackrock, an American global investment management corporation, Fink manages over $5.1 trillion in assets.

Artist Coco Fusco called for people to act during an interview with art historian Steven Nelson at the 2017 College Art Association Conference on Friday, February 17. She read a statement issued by Occupy Museums, which blasted Fink for being “on Trump’s team,” and said that “to advise this regime is to normalize White Supremacy.”

It continued: “There is a long history of activism at MoMA. In fact, tonight’s free museum entrance was brought to you by the Art Worker’s coalition protests decades ago. So in this tradition, we are calling for MoMA to change its behavior. No more normalizing Trump. We are calling for Larry Fink to be kicked off the board as a sign to your public that you care for our values of human dignity.”

February 23, 2017

PSSST Gallery in Boyle Heights Closes Due to “Constant Attacks” by Anti-Gentrification Groups

Around seventy activists attend a news conference to protest against the gentrification of Boyle Heights outside the Nicodim Gallery on November 5, 2016. Photo: LA Times

PSSST Gallery, a nonprofit space that opened only one year ago in the working-class Boyle Heights neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles, has closed its doors after being repeatedly targeted by anti-gentrification activists.

Cofounders Barnett Cohen, Pilar Gallego, and Jules Gimbrone said that their artists and staff members were being trolled online and harassed. The gallery said it was facing “constant attacks.” In a joint statement the cofounders said, “This persistent targeting, which was often highly personal in nature, was made all the more intolerable because the artists we engaged are queer, women, and/or people of color. We could no longer continue to put already vulnerable communities at further risk.”

As a direct result of the community division over the growing presence of art galleries in the Boyle Heights neighborhood as well as ongoing protests by anti-gentrification groups such as Defend Boyle Heights and Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement the gallery’s fundraising efforts suffered.

February 23, 2017

Münster Sculpture Projects 2017 Announces Artists List

Kasper König

The fifth edition of the once-in-a-decade Münster Sculpture Projects, taking place in the north German town of Münster from June 10 to October 1, released its participating artists list. Among the thirty-five artists, representing nineteen countries, that were invited to exhibit works are Michael Dean, Cerith Wyn Evans, Justin Matherly, Emeka Ogboh, Gregor Schneider, Thomas Schütte, Hito Steyerl, and Oscar Tuazon.

In a statement Münster Sculpture Projects said, “We are as convinced as ever that art in the urban realm is capable of activating historical, architectural, social, political, and aesthetic contexts. We see its great potential not in the occupation, but rather in the creation, of spaces”

The exhibition is organized by LWL-Muse-um für Kunst und Kultur and curated by artistic director Kasper König in collaboration with Britta Peters and Marianne Wagner. This year’s concept will revolve around experiences of body, time, and space in an age of increasing digitization.

The full artists list is as follows:

February 22, 2017

Denver Art Museum Receives $12 Million Gift

Rendering of the Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center adjacent to the Denver Art Museum’s North Building.

The Denver Art Museum has announced that Colorado philanthropists Anna and John J. Sie have pledged $12 million to support the institution’s North Building revitalization project, which aims to unify the museum’s campus.

The donation will be used to build the Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center, an elliptical two-story facility with a transparent exterior that was conceived by Denver-based Fentress Architects and Boston architect Machado Silvetti. The design for the center draws from Gio Ponti and James Sudler Associates’s 1970s North Building, which was celebrated as the first high-rise art museum ever constructed in North America. The seven-story building currently houses the museum’s permanent collection.

The new fifty-thousand-square feet welcome center will boast of visitor-centric amenities including a restaurant, café, and ticketing area, as well as flexible program spaces, art storage, and the primary conservation lab. The institution plans to begin construction on the project by the end of 2017.

February 22, 2017

Seijun Suzuki (1923–2017)

Seijun Suzuki

Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki, who blended Pop Art and the Yakuza to create unconventional crime dramas, died in a hospital in Tokyo on February 13. The ninety-three-year-old director’s death was announced by Nikkatsu, the studio that famously fired him in 1967 for making Branded to Kill, which is now considered a classic.

Born in 1923, Suzuki served in Japan’s Imperial Navy during World War II and survived being shipwrecked twice, before joining the Shochiku studio as an assistant director in 1948. The newly reopened Nikkatsu hired him in 1954 and he remained there for twelve years producing forty films for the studio. Nikkatsu fired Suzuki after he directed the visually striking Tokyo Drift (1966) and then the black and white film Branded to Kill shortly after, both of which are widely celebrated by other filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch. The studio had tried unsuccessfully to get Suzuki to tame his avant-garde visions for the films, which were intended to be straightforward gangster flicks.

Suzuki won a settlement after filing an action for unfair dismissal against the studio, but was then unable to get work. “They said my film was incomprehensible,” Suzuki told The Guardian in 2006. “It didn’t matter whether I thought it was a good film. I couldn’t disagree. I just had to take it. And once Nikkatsu sacked me, none of the other film companies would hire me.”

February 22, 2017

Sarah Forrest Wins 2017 Margaret Tait Award

Sarah Forrest

Glasgow-based artist Sarah Forrest was selected as the winner of the 2017 Margaret Tait Award. She will receive a $12,000 commission to create a new piece of work, and the opportunity to present this work at Glasgow Film Festival in 2018.

“I’m delighted to receive the Margaret Tait Award,” Forrest said. “Her work and approach as a filmmaker and writer has been influential for me, so to receive an award that celebrates her legacy is a humbling experience. So too was my inclusion in a shortlist of such incredible artists. The work that I have proposed will begin with a period of research on the Isle of Lewis, where I will be looking initially at the island’s rich history of prophetic ‘second sight,’ drawing from stories that I heard from my mother who grew up there. This work will build on recurring themes in my practice that look at appearance, perception, doubt, and belief, with the commission being an exciting and significant opportunity for me to explore these in a longer form work.”

Forrest studied at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, before earning her master’s degree from the Glasgow School of Art in 2010. She also studied at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Forrest has had solo exhibitions at CCA in Glasgow, Supplement in London, and Kunstraum Dusseldorf in Germany. Her work has been presented at international film festivals, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2014, and she has completed numerous residencies, such as the inaugural Margaret Tait Residency in 2012.

February 22, 2017

East London Gallery Accused of Racism and Alt-Right Values

A picture of LD50.

Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper writes that the East London art gallery LD50 has been accused of promoting alt-right values. In a statement on the gallery’s website, its representatives say that art and culture have now become the exclusive provenance of the left, and that any viewpoints that may clash with leftist ideology are “now publicly vilified, delegitimated [sic] and intimidated with menaces.”

Many want LD50 shut down after a series of talks hosted by right-wing figures were organized at the space. Last summer the gallery had a “neoreaction conference,” with alt-right speakers such as Iben Thranholm (a Danish journalist and Christian who is an unremitting critic of European immigration policy), Peter Brimelow (an anti-immigration activist), and Brett Stevens (an editor at a far-right website based in the US who once applauded Norwegian mass murderer and racist Anders Breivik). The conference was followed up with an exhibition titled “Amerika,” which featured a cardboard dummy of Donald Trump and images of Pepe the Frog, a once innocuous internet meme that has been appropriated by the right.

Shut Down LD50 Gallery is a Tumblr blog that recently said the gallery “is using the cover of the contemporary art scene and academia to legitimize the spread of materials [that have drawn on fascist traditions] and the establishment of a culture of hatred,” and that LD50, “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programs to appear in London in the last decade.” Many artists have gone onto the blog to excoriate the gallery. LD50 has responded to criticism by saying “the role of art is to provide a vehicle for the free exploration of ideas, even and perhaps especially where these are challenging, controversial or indeed distasteful . . . Art should have exemplified this willingness to discuss new ideas, but it has just become apparent to us that this sphere now (and perhaps for the last few years) stands precisely for the opposite of this.”

February 22, 2017

Andy Warhol’s Death Not as Unexpected as Once Thought

Andy Warhol

Art critic Blake Gopnik, who is currently at work on a biography of Andy Warhol, has written a piece for the New York Times explaining that the artist’s 1987 death after gallbladder surgery was not as unexpected as it was initially made out to be. Dr. John Ryan, a retired surgeon and medical historian, said, “This was major, major surgery—not routine—in a very sick person.” Ryan was prompted into researching the artist’s death through his brother, writer and art historian Hal Foster.

Warhol had a family history of gallbladder trouble—his father had his removed in 1928, the year of his son’s birth. The artist had more than a decade’s worth of gallbladder problems as well, perhaps exacerbated after he’d been shot in 1968 by Valerie Solanis, a writer and radical feminist famous for her 1967 SCUM Manifesto (SCUM is an acronym—it stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men). Warhol had also been quite ill for at least a month before his surgery: he barely ate, became quite emaciated and dehydrated, and took speed every day to try and keep up with his demanding schedule. When the artist was finally operated on by Dr. Bjorn Thorbjarnarson—a sought-after surgeon famous for treating the Shah of Iran—he saw that Warhol’s gallbladder was completely taken over by gangrene (it disintegrated when he tried to take it out). He also had nine damaged organs, and a rupture in his abdominal muscles that gave the artist a tremendous hernia (after Warhol was shot, he spent the rest of his life wearing girdles to try and hold in his bowels—his body never fully recovered from the shooting). Thorbjarnarson repaired the artist’s abdominal wall during the surgery.

Despite these problems, Warhol’s operation went well—the artist was in his hospital room making telephone calls by evening. A nurse checked in on him at 4:00 AM; he seemed fine. But two hours later, he was unresponsive. His face turned blue and all efforts at resuscitation failed. Via an autopsy, it was found that Warhol’s heart had trembled and stopped—it was a “ventricular fibrillation” that had killed him. Stewart Redmond Walsh, a professor of vascular surgery at the National University of Ireland in Galway, has done research into sudden death after surgery. He said that when a very sick body experiences extreme stress through a major surgical procedure, it can be fatal, explaining that, “the artist’s bad luck should be thought of as less like a lightning strike than like being hit by a car while crossing the street.”

February 22, 2017

ARCOmadrid’s Thirty-Sixth Edition Launches with 200 Galleries from Twenty-Seven Countries

ARCOmadrid 2016.

ARCOmadrid kicked off today with two hundred galleries representing twenty-seven countries. The thirty-sixth edition of the fair will spotlight Argentina and feature twelve galleries from there in the curated section “Argentina Platforma,” including Alberto Greco, Eduardo Stupia, and Mirtha Dermisache.

“Diverse and intense, the present of the Argentine scene opens its doors in ARCOmadrid,” Pablo Avelluto, minister of culture of the Argentine Republic, said. “A very small sample of what is happening on the other side of the sea, in the other hemisphere. The curatorial challenge was enormous: the Argentine presentation required a program as intense and unique as the pieces that compose it. But the presence of Argentine artistic momentum should not be read in terms of ‘landing.’ We will be guests, not invaders.” He added, “The invitation from ARCOmadrid is an unbeatable opportunity: Argentina will be an experience [that] radiates out across more than twenty points in Madrid.”

ARCOmadrid will also have a large percentage of Latin American galleries. Forty-three galleries are from ten countries in the region. Fairgoers will be able to view the Isabel and Agustín Coppel collection at the Fundación Banco Santander; the Lima-based Hochschild collection at Sala Alcalá 31; and the Costantini Collection at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, which is also where the ARCO Foundation dinner and “‘A’ Awards for Collecting” ceremony will be held.