Anita Brookner (1928–2016)

Anita Brookner

British art historian and Booker Prize-winning author Anita Brookner died on Thursday at the age of eighty-seven reports the New York Times.

Before Brookner became a novelist in her fifties, she was a renowned art historian who focused on French artists such as Jean-Baptiste Greuze. She was the first woman to hold the Slade professorship of fine art at Cambridge University, and she was invited to teach at the Courtauld Institute of Art by-then director Anthony Blunt. She would lecture there until her retirement in 1988.

In 1981, Brookner published her first novel, A Start in Life, and would continue to write and publish a book almost every year for the next three decades. Often writing convincing depictions of female protagonists who are unsatisfied with their lives, Brookner was once called the “mistress of gloom.” In 1984, she won the Booker prize for her fourth novel titled Hotel du Lac—which was, according to The Guardian, described by the prizes’ judges as “a work of perfect artifice.”

Born in southeast London in 1928, Brookner was the only child of Polish-Jewish parents. During WWII her home was a place of refuge for people fleeing from the Nazi regime. Speaking about her family, she told the Paris Review in 1987 that “they were transplanted and fragile people, an unhappy brood, and I felt that I had to protect them . . . As a result, I became an adult too soon and paradoxically never grew up.”

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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

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.

January 18, 2018

Chana Budgazad Sheldon Named Executive Director of North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Chana Budgazad Sheldon. Photo: ProjectArt.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami announced that Chana Budgazad Sheldon, the Miami director and national program advisor at ProjectArt—a nonprofit organization that provides free afterschool programs for underserved communities—has joined the institution as its new executive director. She took up the post on Wednesday, January 17.

“Art and culture can transform lives and communities.” Sheldon said in a statement. “MOCA, through its exhibitions and programming, has for decades been a key hub of cultural engagement for the local community and beyond. My focus as the museum’s new director will be to facilitate that engagement and foster connections between artists, the local community, and the global dialogue in contemporary art about the issues of our time.”

Previously, Sheldon was the executive director of Miami’s Locust Projects, a long-running nonprofit and experimental exhibition space. During her eight-year tenure there, she produced over seventy exhibitions and initiated the organization’s first public art and educational programs.

January 18, 2018

John R. Alchin Elected to Barnes Foundation’s Board of Trustees

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia announced today that businessman John R. Alchin has been appointed a new member of its board of trustees. He also serves on the boards of the Ralph Lauren Corporation, BNY Mellon Funds Trust, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Alchin served as executive vice president and cochief financial officer of the Comcast Corporation from 1990 until his retirement in 2008. Prior to that, he worked as the managing director of the Toronto Dominion Bank, where he founded the U.S. Communications Finance Group in 1980, which became the largest lender to the cable television industry.

“I find the Barnes’s progressive educational mission inspiring, along with its recent initiatives to make its renowned collection accessible to a wider and more diverse audience than ever before,” Alchin said in a statement. “It will be an honor to serve the Barnes’s many communities and support the significant work being done to ensure the Foundation’s future growth and success.”

January 18, 2018

United States Arrests Christie’s Employee Accused of Betraying CIA Informants

A 2014 sale at Christie’s Hong Kong. Photo: manhhai via Flickr.

The head of security for Christie’s salesroom in Hong Kong, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was arrested at John F. Kennedy airport in New York on January 15 and suspended from the auction house due to an ongoing criminal investigation, reports Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic. Lee is a former CIA officer who is suspected of sharing the identities of the agency’s informants with the Chinese authorities.

Information provided by Lee may have potentially resulted in the death or imprisonment of dozens of informants. According to the New York Times, the collapse of the United States’ spy operations in China is one of the biggest intelligence failures since former CIA and the FBI agents Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen leaked intelligence to Moscow during the Cold War.

FBI agents previously discovered that Lee had classified information in his possession when they searched his luggage during a 2012 visit to Virginia. According to an affidavit, officials found a datebook and an address book containing the names of assets and covert facilities, but it is unclear why he was not arrested at the time.

January 18, 2018

Anish Kapoor Donates $1 Million Toward Alleviating Refugee Crisis

Anish Kapoor. Photo: Jack Hens.

Anish Kapoor donated his $1 million Genesis Prize money to five organizations focused on mitigating the global refugee crisis on Wednesday, reports the Jerusalem Post. Last February, Kapoor won an award funded by the Genesis Prize Foundation, an annual prize that recognizes individuals “whose actions and achievements express a commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community, and the State of Israel.” Recipients are given the opportunity to donate $1 million to charities of their choice. 

“Like many Jews, I do not have to go far back in my family history to find people who were refugees,” Kapoor said in a statement. Kapoor, famous for his ambitious public art projects, was born in Mumbai to an Indian father and an Iraqi-Jewish mother, and has long been devoted to social activism concerning refugees. In 1991, he created the Holocaust Memorial for the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London after winning the Turner Prize. “Directing Genesis Prize funds to this cause is a way of helping people who, like my forebears not too long before them, are fleeing persecution,” the UK-based sculptor said. Last May, Kapoor canceled the Genesis Prize ceremony planned in Israel, explaining that a festive celebration of his contributions was inappropriate considering the ongoing violence happening nearby in Syria.  

Kapoor’s grants will help support the International Rescue Committee, the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, HIAS (founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), Hillel International, and Help Refugees, organizations created to aid migrants grappling with persecution, including those from Syria, Myanmar, and South Sudan, and other countries. Among the more than sixty-five million people displaced in 2016, more than twenty-two million were refugees, according to the United Nations.