Unidentified Assailants Fire Shots at Berlin’s Museum Dedicated to LGBT History and Culture

Schwules Museum*

On Monday, staff members noticed possible bullet holes in the windows and window frames of the Schwules Museum*—an institution devoted to communicating the history and culture of LGBT communities—in Berlin, the Berliner Zeitung reports.

The police confirmed that projectiles were found on the ground by the entrance to the museum, but the type of gun the assailants used is still unknown. The police speculate that the weapon may have been an air rifle. Officials from the police department for state security are in charge of the investigation and are looking into whether this crime was motivated by homophobia.

In a statement, the museum confirmed that its staff members are worried.
“Most of the people working at the museum are volunteers who are here because they enjoy being in a safe environment where they are accepted for who and what they are.”

Founded in 1985, the museum, which celebrated its thirtieth anniversary last year, has been at its current location since 2013.

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December 6, 2016

Heirs of Nazi-Persecuted Art Dealer File Suit Against Bavaria for Repatriation of 8 Paintings

Alfred Flechtheim in 1910.

Michael Hulton and his wife, Penny Hulton, heirs of Nazi-persecuted art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, have filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of New York against Bavaria and its state museums for the return of eight paintings by Max Beckmann, Juan Gris, and Paul Klee, valued at nearly $20 million.

The Nazis took the paintings from Flechtheim in 1933. Shortly afterwards, he fled Germany, first living in Paris, and then London, where he died, impoverished, in 1937. His wife committed suicide just a few years later. His niece and mother-in-law also took their own lives in 1942.

The Hulton family’s lawyer, Nicholas M. O’Donnell, said, “Bavaria is completely out of step with the international community with respect to restitution of Nazi-looted art. Its refusal to return the Flechtheim paintings and avoid the resolution of this and other claims on the merits is an insult to the victims of the movement that began right in Munich. It is past time for Bavaria to do the right thing.” Bavaria has more than 1,000 artworks connected to Nazi looting in their state collections—however, just under a dozen of those pieces have been returned thus far.

December 6, 2016

Sharjah Biennial Reveals Participant List for 13th Edition

View of Sharjah Biennial Site

The Sharjah Biennial has announced the sixty artists and groups participating in its thirteenth edition. Curated by Christine Tohme, the biennial will initiate conversation and artistic production that also involves four other sites: Dakar, Senegal; Ramallah, Palestine; Istanbul, Turkey; and Beirut, Lebanon. It will draw thematically upon four keywords as well: water, crops, earth, and culinary. Tohme,
the founding director of Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, recently contributed a piece highlighting the “Best of 2016” to the December issue of Artforum. As was previously reported here, the biennial will feature “Tamawuj” as its subtitle—an Arabic word meaning a swelling, surging, or fluctuation.

The artists and groups participating in the upcoming biennial are as follows:

December 6, 2016

Jewish Family Fights with Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Over Pissarro Sold by Collector Fleeing Nazis

Camille Pissarro, Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie (Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain), 1897, oil on canvas, 32 x 25 1/2".

The Associated Press writes that Camille Pissarro’s Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie (Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain), 1897, which belonged to Lilly Cassirer, a Jewish woman who sold the work while fleeing the Third Reich in Germany, may have one more chance of being returned to her heirs. The painting currently sits in Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, where it has resided since 1993.

The lawyer for Cassirer’s great-grandchildren, David Boies, went before a federal appeals court on December 5 to argue that under international treaties and state law, the work should be returned to the plaintiffs. “This is an issue that is critically important not only in terms of trying to right terrible wrongs that had their origin in the Nazi persecution of the Jews but also to establish principles that are very important to what's happening now in the world,” said Boies. The attorney for the museum, Thaddeus J. Stauber, says that the issue surrounding the work is no longer about looted art, but the ownership rights to a painting that was purchased legally and honestly. According to Stauber, Cassirer lost all her rights to the painting when, in 1958, she accepted $13,000 from the German government for the work’s loss. Boies, however, argues that Cassirer had no idea the painting still existed in 1958, and therefore, never officially signed away her rights to it. Cassirer’s family didn’t learn about the painting until 1999, when they found a picture of it in a museum catalogue.

The Pissarro was bought and sold a number of times before it ended up in the hands of Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the scion of a major steel fortune, who purchased the work from New York art dealer Stephen Hahn in 1976. Thyssen-Bornemisza, who died in 2002, gave the painting, along with the rest of his massive art collection, to the Spanish government in 1993. Spain created the museum in his honor to house his works. The painting is considered to be worth more than $30 million.

December 6, 2016

Walters Art Museum Promotes Amy Landau to Director of Curatorial Affairs

Amy Landau.

Artdaily reports that Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum has promoted Amy Landau to director of curatorial affairs from her former position as associate curator of Islamic and South Asian art. In her new role, she will oversee museum fellows, registrars, and interns, as well as seven full-time curators.

Eleanor Hughes, the museum’s deputy director of art and programming at the museum, said, “Amy is a rising star in a field that is of increasing importance in the world today. During her last seven years at the museum, Amy has shown extraordinary expertise and creativity in her thinking about the Walters’ collections through exhibitions and other collaborative projects. She has demonstrated initiative, flexibility, and most recently, leadership skills. These skills are crucial at a moment when we are hiring a suite of new curators and are moving toward a major reinstallation of the collections.”

Landau has organized many exhibitions at the Walters, such as “Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters,” (2010); “Diadem and Dagger: Jewish Silversmiths of Yemen” (2012–13); “Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue” (2013), which traveled to New York’s Yeshiva University Museum in 2013–14; and “The Art of the Writing Instrument from Paris to Persia” (2011).

Landau received her doctorate in Islamic Art and Archeology and a masters in Islamic Art and Archaeology, with distinction, from Oxford University.

December 6, 2016

Stolen Antiquities Discovered at Geneva Freeport

A bust of a priest discovered at the Geneva Free Port.

Antiquities stolen from ancient sites in Yemen, Libya, and Palmyra have been seized by Swiss authorities at the Geneva Freeport, writes Hannah McGivern of the Art Newspaper. The objects, which range from the third century CE to the fourth century BCE, were placed in clandestine tax-free warehouses between 2009–10, said a public prosecutor in Geneva. The works—two funerary reliefs, a table, a pair of steles, and a bust of a priest, among other pieces—were discovered during a customs inspection in 2013 and verified by culture authorities last year in Bern. A criminal investigation into the artifacts ended on November 22, though no arrests were made. It is believed that six of the artworks were shipped from Qatar and the UAE to Switzerland.

The pieces are in fine condition, and will be placed in Geneva’s Musée d’Art et d’Histore until they are repatriated to their countries of origin.

December 6, 2016

A Proposal for Giant, Gilded Pigs to Obscure Sign on Trump Tower in Chicago

An illustration from New World Design’s proposal.

The firm New World Design has proposed that an installation of four large, gilded, levitating pigs obscure the Trump sign on the president-elect’s Chicago building along Wabash Avenue, writes Matthew Messner of the Architect’s Newspaper. The use of gold is omnipresent in Trump’s branding and interior design. In the proposal, the pigs will be placed on the eastern side of the building, facing Washington, DC. The four pigs symbolize each year of Trump’s first term in office. New World Design says the plan should “encourage folly” and ask “viewers to listen and make their own interpretations.” The firm is just blocks away from the tower, where protests against Trump’s entry into the White House continue. The Chicago City Council voted to take down the building’s signage in response to Trump comparing the city to “a war-torn country” during his first presidential debate.

December 6, 2016

Ferreira Gullar (1930–2016)

Ferreira Gullar

On December 4, the Brazilian poet and art critic Ferreira Gullar died from pneumonia, reports Hyperallergic’s Elisa Wouk Almino. Gullar wrote the manifesto for Neo-Concretism in 1959, the movement that sought to dismantle Concretism’s restrained and formal approaches to artmaking with gestures and structures that were more open-ended and participatory (Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, perhaps Neo-Concretism’s most famous proponents, were also Gullar’s friends).

In 1964—the year the military violently overthrew the Brazilian government—Gullar, by then a member of the Communist party, abandoned Neo-Concretism because he found it elitist. He also managed to escape Brazil’s merciless regime, and lived in Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Moscow for various periods of time. During his itinerancy he conceived what many consider one of his most important works, the epic “Dirty Poem,” 1976—a nostalgic recollection of his childhood combined with horrific accounts of the Brazilian dictatorship—which was recently, and fully, published in English via New Directions. In 1977, when Gullar came back to Brazil, he was yet again put in jail and tortured.

Gullar wrote for television and theater while authoring numerous essays, short stories, and many volumes of poetry, such as Um pouco acima do chão (A Little Above the Ground, 1949); Quem matou Aparecida? (Who Killed Aparecida?, 1962); Na vertigem do dia (In the Vertigo of the Day, 1980); and Muitas vozes (Many Voices, 1999). In 2009, Gullar wrote his last poem based on a moment that jolted him utterly: seeing a version of himself in a mirror that he didn’t recognize. He felt this would be the last time he’d write a poem, as he “only [wanted to] write [poetry] with amazement.”

December 6, 2016

Director of Berlin’s Polish Institute Is Fired for Presenting “Jewish Themes”

Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska

The director of the Polish Institute in Berlin, Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska, has been fired for giving “too much attention for Jewish subjects” in the institution’s programming, Taz reports. Wielga-Skolimowska’s contract should have run until the summer of 2017.

Since she joined the organization as director in 2013, Wielga-Skolimowska has dealt with opposition from Poland’s right wing government and the conservative deputy director, Małgorzata Bochwic-Ivanovska, who Warsaw appointed in the spring after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a negative assessment of the institute’s work. The ministry declared that the organization was not active enough on social media channels and presented too many Polish-Jewish issues. Bochwic-Ivanovska is currently serving as the interim director.

Among the issues that the government was up in arms over was Wielga-Skolimowska’s decision to screen Ida, 2013, at the Berlin institute. The film, which won an Oscar in 2015, features a young woman who learns in the 1960s that she is Jewish and that her parents had been murdered by their Polish neighbors. The deputy director had tried to organize a showing of Smolensk, 2016, instead—a propaganda feature that claimed that the 2010 crash the Polish Presidential Machine was a Russian terrorist act rather than an accident—but no Berlin theaters would take it.

PiS, the governing national conservative party, claims that Poland’s twenty-four overseas institutes are supposed to promote Polish culture. The government has dismissed thirteen of the twenty-four directors just this summer.

December 6, 2016

Mauro Fiorese (1970–2016)

Mauro Fiorese

Artist, curator, and educator Mauro Fiorese has died of lung cancer on Sunday, December 4, in Italy at the age of forty-six. After receiving the diagnosis in 2014, the photographer documented his experience fighting the disease in a visual diary on his website, which features intimate portraits of the artist receiving chemotherapy treatments and spending time with his four-year-old daughter, Leda. He wrote: “Art can be a spiritual process for our mind, if we are open to new visions.”

Born in Verona in 1970, Fiorese worked as a photographer for more than two decades. Among his bodies of work are “Corpolibero,” a series dedicated to his research on disabilities and what it means to be handicapped, and “Treasure Rooms,” which explores the museum vaults and storage facilities of Italian institutions such as the Uffizi Gallery. Organized by Robert Mann Gallery, “Treasure Rooms” was the artist’s first exhibition in the United States and he won the 2015 Codice MIA Award for the work.

Fiorese taught photography at the Accademia di Belle Arti, the University of Verona, the European Institute of Design in Milan, and at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s study abroad program in Italy. He exhibited at the Fifty-Fourth Venice Biennale in 2011 and at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York—the first museum dedicated to photography to open in the US. Fiorese has won numerous awards. He was included in the 1997 edition of the “TOP 100 World Photographers List” complied by the Ernst Haas/Golden Light Award and received a medal of representation by the president of the Italian Republic, Girogio Napolitano, in 2011. He also curated various shows for the Centro Internazionale di Fotografia Scavi Scaligeri of the city of Verona.

His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas; the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris; the Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea in Cinisello Balsamo, Italy; and the Centro Internazionale di fotografia Scavi Scaligeri in Verona.