Umberto Eco (1932–2016)

The Italian semiotician Umberto Eco died on Friday. Eco also became a best-selling novelist, according to Jonathan Kandell in the New York Times. Writes Kandell, “As a semiotician, Eco sought to interpret cultures through their signs and symbols—words, religious icons, banners, clothing, musical scores, even cartoons.” A professor at the University of Bologna, Eco wrote over twenty nonfiction books on his research. But he turned to writing fiction as well, publishing the book The Name of the Rose (1980), a murder mystery that also included passages of philosophy and Christian theology, which sold over ten million copies and was translated to around thirty languages.

Later books included Foucault’s Pendulum (1988), The Island of the Day Before (1994), and Baudolino (2000). Eco received Italy’s highest literary award, the Premio Strega. He was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by France.

In publishing his seminal series of essays in the 1980s, “Travels in Hyperreality” (reviewed by Max Kozloff in Artforum), Eco turned his perspectives on iconism and simulation into trenchant musings on American culture, writing, “Holography could prosper only in America, a country obsessed with realism, where, if a reconstruction is to be credible, it must be absolutely iconic, a perfect likeness, a ‘real’ copy of the reality being represented.”

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January 20, 2017

Ongoing List of Arts Institutions to Close for Inauguration Day Culture Strike

Anti-Trump protest.

In protest of the normalization of a Donald Trump presidency, arts institutions, artists, and critics are planning to participate in a culture strike on Inauguration Day, January 20. Billed as an “act of non-compliance,” the J20 Art Strike urges museums, galleries, theaters, concert halls, studios, nonprofits, and art schools to take a stand against hate and intolerance.

The following is a running list of institutions and organizations that will close or present special programming.

Closures:

47 Canal
A.I.R.
Accola Griefen Gallery
Alexander & Bonin
Alexander Gray
Andrew Kreps
Black Ball Projects
Blank Forms
Blum & Poe
bitforms gallery
Burning in Water
Canada
The Carpenter Center, Harvard University
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
Cheim & Reid
College Art Association
David & Schweitzer
Dillon + Lee
DM Contemporary
Essex Street
Francis M. Naumann Fine Art
First Street Gallery
FiveMyles
Fresh Window
Foxy Productions
Garth Greenan
Grey Art Gallery, New York University
The Hole
Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project
Joan, Los Angeles
The Kitchen
Light Industry
Lisson Gallery
LMAK
Lyles & King
Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery NY
Miguel Abreu
Minus Space
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University
No Longer Empty
Odetta
Pen + Brush
The Phillips Collection
Present Company
Primary Information
Printed Matter
Queens Museum
Radiator Gallery
Recess
Salon 94
SculptureCenter
Sean Kelly Gallery
Secret Dungeon Project
Smack Mellon
Station Independent Projects
Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects
Steven Kasher Gallery
Thomas Erben Gallery
Triple Canopy
Victori + Mo
Viridian Artists
White Columns

Pay What You Wish and Free Admission:

El Museo del Barrio, New York
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Museum of Arts and Design, New York
Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of the Moving Image, New York
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
The New Museum, New York
Rhode Island School of Design Museum
The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Institutional Activities:

Bard Graduate Center will stage readings from the United States Constitution.

Outsider Art Fair, New York, will invite attendees to read speeches, interviews, and quotes by former President Barack Obama.

The Brooklyn Museum will present a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’s 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again.”

While the Queens Museum, New York, will be closed to visitors wishing to view its galleries, the building will be open for “Sign of the Times,” which provides visitors with space and materials to make posters, buttons, signs, and banners that they can use in marches or for other actions.

The Museum of the Moving Image in New York will offer a free screening of the movie “Loving,” about Richard and Mildred Loving who took their fight against laws banning interracial marriage to the Supreme Court.

National Sawdust in Brooklyn is organizing “The Hillary Speeches,” which will screen two of Clinton's speeches—when she first announced she was running for President on January 7, 2007, and when she gave her concession speech on November 9, 2017—and live music performed by several classical musicians and Broadway performers.

At MoMA PS1 artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, creators of the first artist-run political action committee (PAC), For Freedoms, will begin their residency which will run through the first one hundred days of Trump’s presidency.

The Baltimore Museum of Art is hosting a “nonpartisan” event with readings, tours and performances.

The Rubin Museum is hosting a meditation and yoga workshop called “Swear In, Breathe Out.”

Petzel Gallery in New York is presenting a public roundtable hosted by Justin Caguiat of the Manila Institute, which will initiate a dialogue about “naming our systems of oppression, and against the fixed resolution of authority, and what this looks like to young artists today.”

On Friday, January 27, Blum & Poe in Los Angeles is presenting a night of poetry. Will Alexander, Tisa Bryant, and Robin Coste Lewis will read new works of poetry, followed by a piano performance by Donal Fox. There is a suggested $10 donation to attend and all proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood.

The Whitney Museum in New York is offering free programming, including “My America” guided tours; a speak out convened by the artist collective Occupy Museums; and open discussions moderated by artists, critics, and Whitney staff.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts will offer a free “Nasty Women” tour on Saturday, January 21, coinciding with the Women’s March on Washington DC.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, will host “School Night: Self-Care as Warfare,” on January 24. The event invites artists and activists to participate in a discussion on wellness techniques people can use throughout Trump’s presidency.

January 20, 2017

Tina Gverović and Marko Tadić to Represent Croatia at 2017 Venice Biennale

Tina Gverović and Marko Tadić

Artists Tina Gverović and Marko Tadić have been selected to represent Croatia at the Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale, which will be held from May 13 to November 26. Apoteka director Branka Benčić will curate the pavilion, which is being organized by the Modern Gallery in Zagreb.

The exhibition, “Horizon Expectations” will present new works by the artists that focus on the temporary nature of the exhibition space and focus on notions of “uncertainty, tension, and collapse.” The title was derived from literary historian Hans Robert Jauss’s theory of reception. Jauss argued that literary works are received against an existing horizon of expectations consisting of readers’ current knowledge and presuppositions about literature. As horizons shift so does the meaning of the works.

Gverović, known for her media installations comprising drawings, images, audio, text, and video, often focuses on issues related to space, territory, and identity. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1997, completed postgraduate studies at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht in the Netherlands in 2000, and earned her Ph.D at Middlesex University in London in 2013.

Tadic’s body of work includes collages, cartoons, drawings, and installations that often focus on the legacy of modernism in the fields of art and architecture. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and lives and works in Zagreb.

January 20, 2017

Elena Ochoa Foster Elected Chair of Serpentine Galleries Council

Elena Ochoa Foster Photo: Sylvia Polakov

Elena Ochoa Foster, a publisher, curator, and the founder of Ivorypress—a publishing house specializing in artists’ books—has been elected as the new chair of London’s Serpentine Galleries council.

Ochoa Foster is a member of the board of art directors at the Mutual Art Trust and serves on the advisory board of the Prix Pictet photography award. She has been president of the jury at the Swiss photography award, Alt+1000; president of the Tate International Council for five years; and a member of the board of directors of both the Tate Foundation and the Noguchi Foundation.

In a joint statement, Yana Peel, chief executive, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, said: “We are honored and delighted that our long-standing collaborator Lady Foster will be assuming the chairmanship of the Serpentine Council, the Galleries’ core community of supporters and friends. Elena’s outstanding support of artists as publisher and patron make her an excellent champion and the ideal ambassador for our ambitions—to bring multiple worlds together in an open landscape for art and ideas in the heart of Kensington Gardens.”

January 20, 2017

ISIS Destroys Part of Palmyra’s Roman Amphitheater

Palmyra’s Roman amphitheater.

According to Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times, the Islamic State has continued its “cultural cleansing” campaign by ravaging the city of Palmyra, Syria, in an attempt to eradicate cultural and historical objects that don’t adhere to its interpretation of Islam. The militant group used explosives to severely damage the ancient city’s Roman amphitheater and a tetrapylon—a square with four plinths and four columns.

Nine months after Syrian troops drove ISIS out of Palmyra, the extremists seized the two-thousand-year-old city again in December. Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director general of antiquities and museums, said, “ISIS is destroying Palmyra, building after building. In the past, their goal was ideological,” but now it has become a matter of “revenge.”

January 20, 2017

James S. Ackerman (1919–2016)

James S. Ackerman Photo: Jill Slosburg-Ackerman

Harvard art historian James S. Ackerman died on Dec. 31 at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of ninety-seven, William Grimes of the New York Times reports.

Best known for his writings on the architecture of Michelangelo and Palladio, Ackerman was born in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 1919. He studied art and architecture at the Cate School in Carpinteria, California, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1941. He was attending the Institute of Fine Arts in New York when he was drafted into the Army in 1942 and served with the Intelligence Corps. Before returning to the US, Ackerman volunteered to work for the Monuments and Fine Arts Commission in Milan where he recovered archives that had been safely stored in the monastery complex Certosa.

Ackerman earned his doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts in 1952. He published “The Architecture of Michelangelo,” a two-volume tomb comprising essays on his building projects including Laurentian Library and the Medici Chapel in Florence and the Farnese Palace and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Society of Architectural Historians recognized the book with its Hitchcock Award in 1961. Ackerman taught at Harvard University from 1960 to 1990 and in 1969 he worked as a professor at Cambridge University in England.

January 19, 2017

Reports of Trump Administration Plan to Eliminate the NEA and NEH Cause Alarm

President-elect Donald J. Trump

While President-elect Donald J. Trump has not officially made a statement regarding his plans for the National Endowment of the Arts or the National Endowment of the Humanities, a report published by The Hill this morning claims that the Trump administration has proposed eliminating both agencies in order to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next ten years.

According to the proposal, funding for the departments of commerce, energy, transportation, justice, and state would also be subject to significant cuts and program eliminations and the corporation for public broadcasting would become privatized.

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the largest national funder of nonprofits in the US. The agency awards more than 2,200 grants and cooperative agreements exceeding $130 million for arts programming annually. The NEA’s 2015 Annual Report states that its $146 million budget, which represents only 0.012 percent of the federal budget, supported more than 30,000 concerts, readings, and performances and more than 5,000 exhibitions. NEA awards generated around $600 million in matching support.

January 19, 2017

New York’s Museum of Arts and Design Director Jorge Daniel Veneciano Steps Down

Jorge Daniel Veneciano

The Museum of Arts and Design in New York announced today that director Jorge Daniel Veneciano will resign on January 31 after only five months in the position. The scholar of art and political theory will shift his focus to writing and consulting at the intersection of cultural policy, immigrant rights, and civic engagement. Board chair Michele Cohen will serve as interim director while the museum searches for a replacement.

“Current political events compel me to turn my attention to pressing needs in the cultural sector,” Veneciano said. He is currently writing a book about the social relevance of cultural institutions in “securing civility in uncivil times.” He added, “I remain a great admirer of the museum of arts and design, and I am confident that it will be in good hands going forward.”

Veneciano succeeded Glenn Adamson when he joined the institution as director in October. Previously, he served as director of El Museo del Barrio. Cohen said that the museum respects Veneciano’s decision and “on behalf of MAD’s trustees, staff, and audiences, I wish him well on his next steps.”

January 19, 2017

Milwaukee Art Museum Receives Historic Gift of More Than 500 Jules Chéret Works

Jules Chéret, Les Girard, 1879.

The Milwaukee Art Museum announced today that it has been promised a gift of more than five hundred works by French graphic artist Jules Chéret from the collection of Susee and James Wiechmann. Often referred to as the “father of the modern poster,” Chéret influenced many artists of his time including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard. His works range from posters advertising theatrical events to designs for book covers.

“Susee and I are thrilled to add our Jules Chéret poster collection to the museum’s treasures where it can be shared by all,” James Wiechmann said. “These posters that lit up the streets of Paris in the late 1800s will now shine in the galleries of our Milwaukee Art Museum and those of other museums as they are exhibited around the country.”

In addition to the promised gift of their Chéret collection, which was partially featured in the museum’s exhibition, “Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries” (2012), the Wiechmanns are underwriting the institution’s new associate curator of prints and drawings position. Britany L. Salsbury, an Andrew W. Mellon curatorial fellow at the Rhode Island School of Design, will take up the post in February.

“We look forward to welcoming Britany as an integral part of the museum’s curatorial team,” director Marcelle Polednik said. “In addition to managing our works on paper collection, her extensive experience makes her the perfect person to catalogue and develop a major exhibition based on the Chéret gift.”

January 19, 2017

Frieze London Names Ruba Katrib Curatorial Advisor of Focus

Ruba Katrib

Frieze announced today that Ruba Katrib, a curator at the SculptureCenter in New York, has been appointed as curatorial advisor for the Focus section at Frieze London’s 2017 edition, which will take place from October 5 to October 8.

Katrib joins numerous curators collaborating with Frieze, including Raphael Gygax, curator at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich,Toby Kamps, curator of modern and contemporary art at The Menil Collection in Houston, and independent curators Norman Rosenthal and Clare Lilley. Katrib said, “I’m eager to see who’s there and what they’ve brought, knowing that the galleries in Focus can be counted on to bring lesser-known artists, new work, and exciting ideas—they consistently work hard to convey a fresh approach.”

Last year, Focus, which showcases emerging galleries aged twelve years or younger, presented thirty-seven galleries from Berlin to Shanghai. Previous curatorial advisors have included Cecilia Alemani, Daniel Baumann, Raphael Gygax, Sarah McCrory and Rodrigo Moura.