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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March 22, 2017

Guggenheim Foundation Cancels Shanghai Exhibition of Middle Eastern Art

Installation view of “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa in Shanghai” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced that it has called off its upcoming UBS MAP exhibition, which was scheduled to open at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai on April 15.

A short statement released by the foundation on March 17 says that the Guggenheim and the museum “mutually agreed” on cancelling “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa in Shanghai,” due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

The exhibition was hosted by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in April 2016 under the title “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa.” Curated by Sara Raza, the show was the third installment of the UBS MAP Global Art Initiative—a program that aimed to increase access to contemporary art and education on a global scale and to diversify the museum’s collection. Showcasing eighteen works by seventeen artists, ten of whom released a statement criticizing the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for breaking off talks with Gulf Labor, the exhibition was originally supposed to travel to the Pera Museum in Istanbul in 2017. In February, it was announced that it would be displayed at The Rockbund instead.

March 22, 2017

The Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation Announces 2017 Grant Recipients

Daniel Joseph Martinez

The Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation has announced the recipients of its fifteenth annual grants and commissions program, which recognizes emerging, midcareer, and established contemporary Latin American artists, Maximilíano Durón of Artnews reports. The nine awardees will be part of an exhibition set to open at the CIFO Art Center in Miami on September 7.

Emerging artists recognized include Ilich Castillo, Alana Iturralde, Juan Carlos Osorno, Celia y Yunior, Katherinne Fiedler, and Ulrik López. Midcareer artists honored include Richard Garet and Fredy Alzate. Mexican-American multimedia artist Daniel Joseph Martinez was selected as the winner of the foundation’s achievement award. The Los Angeles–based artist, best known for his admissions buttons to the 1993 Whitney Biennial which read “I CAN’T IMAGINE EVER WANTING TO BE WHITE,” often explores issues of personal and collective identity in his works. His new pieces for the upcoming exhibition will be inspired by recent photographs he took of West Berlin and “iconic images of German left-wing militant Ulrike Meinhof.”

“CIFO is proud to have been part of the Latin American art scene since 2002,” said Eugenio Valdés Figueroa, director and chief curator of CIFO. “The CIFO grants and commissions program has been a platform for creation and reflection on the cultural problematics of the region during the past years. The program has awarded more than 120 artists and has dedicated over $1.5 million in funds to date.”

March 22, 2017

Anselm Kiefer and Mario Vargas Llosa Awarded J. Paul Getty Medals

Anselm Kiefer and Mario Vargas Llosa.

The J. Paul Getty Trust announced today that German artist Anselm Kiefer and Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa are being awarded J. Paul Getty Medals. They will be honored at a celebratory dinner at the Morgan Library in New York City this November.

“We shall honor two of the world’s great artists,” Maria Hummer-Tuttle, chair of the board of trustees, said. “Anselm Kiefer and Mario Vargas Llosa are both engaged in big ideas and historic moments, and they share with the Getty a passionate commitment to global culture.”

Since it was established in 2013, the J. Paul Getty Trust has only recognized six individuals for their extraordinary contributions to the arts. Past recipients of the award include Harold Williams, Nancy Englander, Jacob Rothschild, Frank Gehry, Yo-Yo Ma, and Ellsworth Kelly.

March 22, 2017

Documenta CEO Requests Additional State Funding

Annette Kulenkampff

Documenta’s CEO and managing director, Annette Kulenkampff, is asking for more government funding for the contemporary art exhibition, Monopol reports. Documenta 14, taking place in Athens (April 8–July 16) and Kassel (June 10–Sept. 17), has a budget of approximately $37 million. Half of the budget is publicly subsidized and comes from the state of Hesse, the city of Kassel, and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Cultural Foundation). The remainder is raised by the exhibition. Kulenkampff says, “This is not sustainable in the long run.”

The success of previous Documentas has resulted in a surplus of funds, which are then reinvested in the next iteration of the exhibition. However, a large portion of Documenta’s finances is used to support the production of new artworks, which remain the property of the artist once the show ends.

While the exhibition is largely dependent on sponsors such as Sparkasse Bank and VW, according to Kulenkampff, competing with sporting events has made securing funding increasingly difficult. Kulenkampff also noted that Documenta receives less public financing than other art forms in Germany, such as theater productions.

March 22, 2017

Mike Kelley Foundation Awards $319,000 in Grants for 2017

Mike Kelley. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

The Mike Kelley Foundation has awarded a total of $319,000 in 2017 Artist Project Grants to eight Los Angeles–based nonprofits. "These artists and organizations exemplify the ambitious and imaginative spirit of this grant. From new works—such as Liz Glynn’s sculptural stage set of fire and steel—to the first-ever performance of the late composer James Tenney’s magnum opus, to critical examinations of art history, the projects reflect the remarkable scope and variety of artistic and curatorial practices in Los Angeles,” said Mary Clare Stevens, the executive director of the foundation.

Those awarded this year are:

Human Resources ($40,000), so that it may stage an exhibition of works and performances, titled “GesammttkkunnsttMeshuggahhLaandtttt,” by artist Charlemagne Palestine.

The Industry ($40,000), for director Yuval Sharon’s reimagining of Bertolt Brecht’s 1938 play Life of Galileo, which will take place on a beach in San Pedro around a gigantic sculpture by Liz Glynn.

La Plaza de Cultura y Artes ($40,000), towards the exhibition “¡Murales Rebeldes!: L.A. Chicana/o Murals Under Siege,” a collaboration between La Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the California Historical Society, as part of the Getty Foundation’s “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” initiative.

REDCAT ($40,000), to fund the performance-based exhibition titled “Chalk Circles,” featuring artists such as Carola Dertnig, Joachim Koester, David Levine, Silke Otto-Knapp, and Kerry Tribe.

The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound ($33,000), which will aid in staging the world premiere of the late composer James Tenney’s 1985 theater work Changes: 64 Studies for 6 Harps.

The University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach ($40,000), for a solo exhibition by artist lauren woods, which will be made up of video and sound installations, film, site-specific works, and a public intervention.

Vincent Price Art Museum ($50,000), for the exhibition “Regeneración: Three Generations of Revolutionary Ideology,” a group exhibition that will examine the circulation of revolutionary and activist thinking between the United States and Mexico.

Pasadena Arts Council’s Volume Program ($36,000), that will fund Ron Athey’s performative installation Gifts of the Spirit: Auto da Fe, which will explore religious ecstasy, spiritualism, Pentecostalism, faith healing, stigmata, prophecy, and glossolalia.

March 22, 2017

Paris’s Museum of Decorative Arts Hosts Giant Ball Pool

Snarkitecture's The Beach at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Photo: Noah Kalina

From March 21 to 25, the grand nave of Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs will host an installation comprised of 300,000 balls made from recycled plastic according to BFMTV. The project, titled The Beach, was designed by New York–based firm Snarkitecture, whose past works have included a collaboration with contemporary artist Daniel Arsham, one of the founders of the firm, and honors the twentieth anniversary of the iconic department store, Colette, located just a few blocks from the museum. According to Colette’s website, The Beach is “a place for young and old, a place to have fun, and a place of discovery and rebirth.”

The Beach was commissioned in 2015 by the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, and has since traveled to the Amalie Arena in Tampa and the Sydney Festival at Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia.

March 22, 2017

Sophie Calle to Launch Twenty-Five-Year-Long Project in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

Sophie Calle. Photo: Elsa Noblet.

Creative Time has commissioned French artist Sophie Calle for an ambitious, twenty-five-year-long project that will take place at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery, the title of the artist’s work, will consist of a hollow grave connected to an above-ground obelisk, made of marble and designed by Calle. On the obelisk will be a small slot where visitors may transcribe confessions or secrets on a piece of paper and deposit them into the structure, slowly filling the grave. Calle will return to the cemetery throughout the next twenty-five years, each time the grave is full, to exhume its contents and destroy them in a ritualistic bonfire.

The project will debut during a two-day-long event, scheduled for April 29 and 30. The artist will be at the event for both days, from 12:00 until 5:00 PM. Guests coming to the opening are invited to explore the cemetery’s numerous monuments. Maps of the grounds, designed specifically around Calle’s work, will be available to the public, free of charge. There will also be free, guided walking tours.

The artist has issued special instructions about the project, which may be read below.

March 22, 2017

Art Basel Hong Kong Launches Its Fifth Edition Featuring 242 Galleries

Kimsooja, Deductive Object, 2016, at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Opening on March 23, Art Basel Hong Kong’s fifth edition will welcome 242 galleries from thirty-four countries and will debut a new curatorial sector, Kabinett. Twenty-nine galleries will be participating for the first time, ten from Asia, ten from Europe, and nine from the Americas.

The fourth iteration of the fair drew more than 70,000 visitors over the course of its five-day run. This year, Art Basel Hong Kong is expected to attract an even bigger crowd. Reflecting on the last five years since Art Basel purchased the Hong Kong fair, global director Marc Spiegler said, “I don’t think any of us imagined the show would gain so much attention so quickly.”

The Galleries sector of the fair will host 190 modern art and contemporary exhibitors. Its Insights section will feature twenty-seven projects that highlight works by artists from Asia and the Asia Pacific region, including The Fifth Moon collective, Tunisian artist Rachid Koraïchi, Pakistan-based Hamra Abbas, Jiang Zhi, and Yoshio Kitayama. Over twenty-five galleries will present solo and two-person exhibitions in Discoveries, showcasing works by Petra Cortright, Ishu Han, Kathrin Sonntag, and Edgardo Aragón.

March 21, 2017

Walt Cessna (1964–2017)

Walt Cessna

Artist, author, curator, and former New York club kid Walt Cessna has died, writes Derek de Koff of Queerty. Cessna lived many lives. In a 2012 interview with Queerty’s John Russell, the multihyphenate cultural producer indicated that he spent some time hustling in San Francisco; wrote for the now-defunct East Village Eye and New York Talk; was an editor at the Village Voice when he turned eighteen; contributed to Details magazine under Stephen Saban and Annie Flanders; and styled Nine Inch Nails’ Self-Destruct Tour.

He was also a prolific publisher of zines, including STOP, The Key, and Vaczine. His 2012 book Fukt to Start With: Short Stories & Broken Werd is a semiautobiographical collection of tales about societal misfits, published by SixteenFourteen/Desperanto. In 2015, Cessna organized “Interface: Queer Artists Forming Community Through Social Media” at New York’s Leslie–Lohman Museum. The exhibition featured work from Dietmar Busse, Erika Keck, Gio Black Peter, Scooter La Forge, Natasha Gornik, and Slava Mogutin, among other artists.

“He was brilliant and complicated and like many creatives, his own worst enemy. He was constantly writing and photographing and musing and telling us all what was ‘correct,’ a term he used to describe anything he deemed brilliant and worthy of praise,” said artist Trey Speegle on Cessna’s Facebook page. “Give the devil hell and the angels some styling tips, Walt. You were so correct, in so many ways. I’ll meet you by the back bar at Area—I’ve got drink tickets.”