Art Historians and Archaeologists Stage Two Days of Protests Against Italy’s Recent Cultural Reforms

Dario Franceschini

Archaeologists, art historians, architects, and academics have planned two days of staged protests in Rome, yesterday and today, against the recent cultural reforms enacted by Italy’s minister of cultural heritage Dario Franceschini and minister of public administration and simplification Marianna Madia, reports Il Giornale’s Tina Lepri.

As previously reported, Franceschini’s reforms streamline the country’s cultural institutions, unifying the country’s independent departments into a single, new entity, Soprintendenze Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio (Department of Architecture, Fine Arts, and Landscape).

However the protesters predict these new reforms, further degrading the affected departments and their “guardianship,” create faults and chaos in “an already greatly weakened network of protection and research.” Under the slogan “Contro una riforma caos” (Against Reform Chaos), these professionals of arts and culture are uniting to denounce “measures that were forced upon [us] without any discussion or organic process,” as they said in a statement.

Today’s press conference, organized by the National Association of Technicians for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, among other groups, will be attended by well-known members of Italy’s cultural world, including Antonio Paolucci (director of the Vatican Museums), Maria Vittoria Marini Clarelli (former director of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome), and Pietro Giovanni Guzzo (former archeological superintendent of Pompei).


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

Queer|Art Names Travis Chamberlain Managing Director

Travis Chamberlain

Travis Chamberlain, the associate curator of performance at New York’s New Museum, will join Queer|Art—a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ artists—as its first managing director. He will take up the post on February 1.

Filmmaker and founding director Ira Sachs established Queer|Art in 2009 to give voice to “a population that has been historically suppressed, disenfranchised, and often overlooked by traditional institutional and economic support systems.” Sachs said, “Given the success and demand we’ve seen for our programs over the eight years we’ve been around, it is clear that Queer|Art can play a vital role in serving both the arts and LGBTQ communities for years to come.” He added, “Significantly, Travis will be the organization’s first fulltime staff member, and represents our commitment to growth and sustainability. We are thrilled to have such an impassioned and experienced arts leader join us in our efforts.”

During his tenure at the New Museum, Chamberlain supported the work of a number of queer artists such as Ishmael Houston-Jones, Dennis Cooper, Karen Finley, Julie Tolentino, Wu Tsang, Jennifer Monson, and others. He joined the institution in 2007 as a public programs coordinator before becoming the associate curator of performance in 2013. Previously, Chamberlain served as the artistic director of Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn.

January 19, 2017

Rental Gallery to Open East Hampton Space in May

Joel Mesler, Untitled (Pool with Beach Ball), 2016. Photo: Martin Parsek

Rental Gallery has announced that it will open a new location in East Hampton, New York, in May. Founded by artist and dealer Joel Mesler, Rental was originally established in Los Angeles in 2004 as a venue for flexible and experimental programming by local curators and gallerists. After three years, the gallery relocated to New York City where it operated until 2010.

Mesler said, “New York has been the center of the art world for the longest time, but in a globalized world, what does that even mean? We’re focusing on one of most important regions of artmaking and collecting in this part of the world, figuring that people will come to us. It’s like those bumper stickers—‘Think Global, Collect Local.’”

In a statement, the gallery cites “a decade of rising rents in arts centers, combined with a global move towards an art-fair driven calendar” as the reason why it chose to move to a seasonal destination such as the Hamptons. Rental will inaugurate its new space with a retrospective featuring artists who have exhibited at the gallery since its founding.

January 19, 2017

New York’s Essex Street Gallery Relocates to Hester Street

Lucy Raven, 4:3, 2008.

Manhattan’s Essex Street Gallery has announced that it is relocating from Eldridge Street to 55 Hester Street, Alex Greenberger of Artnews reports. Founder Maxwell Graham said he considered moving to Berlin or Brussels before deciding on a larger space closer to the gallery’s original location.

A group show of political art, “Change of State,” will inaugurate the space. “I planned on doing an anti-inauguration exhibition regardless of which of the two candidates were elected,” Graham said. The exhibition, which opens on January 19, will be on view at the gallery’s Eldridge Street and Hester Street locations. Essex Street is participating in the J20 Art Strike and will be closed on Inauguration Day, January 20.

“Change of State” will feature older works including Fred Lonidier photographs depicting the arrests of twenty-nine protesters in 1972. Among the other artists exhibiting are Andrea Fraser, Hans Haacke, Rodney McMillian, Lucy Raven, and Sean Snyder. “I didn’t think that new work made sense because I don’t think we’re necessarily moving forward,” Graham said. “Amongst other moments of contemporary art history, critical practices from the ’80s and ’90s are foundational for me and members of the gallery. It’s very depressing to see the increased need for them again.”

January 18, 2017

The Studio Museum Appoints Connie H. Choi Associate Curator

Connie H. Choi

The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, announced today that Connie H. Choi, currently assistant curator of American art at the Brooklyn Museum, has been named associate curator of its permanent collection. She will take up the post on February 6.

“We are thrilled to have Connie bring her significant experience and expertise in American art, African American art, and museum collections to the Studio Museum,” director Thelma Golden said. “I am confident that she will be a wonderful addition to the curatorial team as we approach our fiftieth anniversary and continue to grow our collection.”

Choi joined the Brooklyn Museum in 2009 as a graduate intern and research associate before becoming assistant curator. During her tenure at the museum, she assisted the former curator of American Art, Terry Carbone, with the museum’s Fund for African American Art, an initiative founded in 2010 to support gifts of art by African American artists. She also organized the exhibition “Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection” and was part of the curatorial team for “Infinite Blue.” Choi earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale University and her master’s in arts education from Harvard University. She is currently a Ph.D candidate in art history at Columbia University, where her research focuses on African American art, the history of photography, and the intersections between race, history, and culture.

January 18, 2017

Speed Art Museum Names Erika Holmquist-Wall Chief Curator

Erika Holmquist-Wall

The Speed Art Museum in Kentucky announced today that Erika Holmquist-Wall, currently the museum’s curator of European and American painting and sculpture, was appointed as its new chief curator. She succeeds Scott Erbes who has held the position since 2013. Holmquist-Wall will be responsible for organizing future exhibitions, conservation and restoration, and acquisitions.

“I’m brimming over with ideas for how we can better share the collection and encourage the public to be more involved,” Holmquist-Wall said. “I have traditional museum experience, but I’m also looking toward the future. We need to share our collection on not just a physical level, but a digital level as well. That means reaching out via the Internet, podcasts, social media and more.”

Prior to the Speed, Holmquist-Wall worked in various roles at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts since joining as a curatorial assistant in 2000. She became the institution’s assistant curator of paintings in 2007 and also served as its provenance specialist, overseeing all research related to ownership and acquisitions for the museum’s collections. During her tenure, she curated several exhibitions including “The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy” (2011) and “Alexander Roslin and the Comtesse Pignatelli” (2008).

January 18, 2017

Marianne Boesky Gallery to Open New Space in Aspen

Marianne Boesky Photo: Allison Michael Orenstein

Marianne Boesky Gallery has announced that it will open Boesky West, a new project space in Aspen, Colorado. Slated to open on March 8, 2017, the venue will serve as an extension of Marianne Boesky’s flagship gallery in Chelsea.

Boesky tapped Selldorf Architects to lead the redesign of the three-thousand-square-foot, nineteenth-century cabin that was once owned by photographer James “Horsethief” Kelly. Local architecture firm David Johnston Architects will collaborate on the project.

“I have long been inspired by Aspen’s extreme landscape, and the creativity that it has fueled among artists, musicians, writers, and so many other individuals of diverse background and interests,” Boesky said. She added, “I see Boesky West as a space to present the work of our artists in a completely different context and environment than New York, expanding the experience of their work and introducing it to new audiences. At the same time, Boesky West offers the gallery more opportunity to experiment and collaborate with not only artists, but with curators, art historians, critics, and other members of the community.”

January 18, 2017

Artists Raise More Than $1 Million to Create Protest Art for Inauguration Day

One of Shepard Fairey’s works for the “We the People” campaign.

After learning that there will be restrictions against large scale signs and banners on Inauguration Day, artists Shepard Fairey, Ernesto Yerena, and Jessica Sabogal have teamed up to launch “We the People,” a campaign to create full-page newspaper ads that double as protest art, which will be distributed through the Washington Post to the thousands of people expected to demonstrate in Washington, DC on January 20 and over the weekend.

Since its launch on Kickstarter on Tuesday, the project has raised over $1 million. In collaboration with the Amplifier Foundation—a nonprofit that works to amplify grassroots movements and the commissioner of the “We the People” project—Fairey, Yerena, and Sabogal worked with photographers to make images of people that “capture the shared humanity of our diverse America.”

A street artist known for his Obama campaign poster Hope, Fairey has made three works in a similar graphic style featuring a Muslim woman wearing an American flag as a headscarf, a Latino woman with a flower in her hair, and an African American kid. Below the portraits, “We the People” is written in all caps as well as the phrases: “Are greater than fear,” “defend dignity,” and “protect each other.” Fairey said, “It was the right time to make a campaign that’s about diversity and inclusion, about people seeing the common bonds we have, and our connections as human beings. The idea was to take back a lot of this patriotic language in a way that we see is positive and progressive, and not let it be hijacked by people who want to say that the American flag or American concepts only represent one narrow way of thinking.”

January 18, 2017

Protesters in Hong Kong Urge China to Shelve Plan for New Palace Museum

People protesting the opening of a branch of Beijing’s Palace Museum in Hong Kong. Photo: Isaac Lawrence

A proposal to open a new branch of Beijing’s Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, in Hong Kong has sparked protests throughout the city, Juliana Liu of BBC reports. Critics of the plan claim that the museum is being forced on the semi-autonomous city by Hong Kong’s former chief secretary for administration Carrie Lam. Expected to make an election bid for chief executive, Lam is accused of supporting the project to win favor with Beijing.

Following the backlash, Lam defended the project. She said, “I know that today’s society is full of mistrust, but for this issue, we really do not have any selfish motives and private interests.” She added, “We should not let this cultural issue be politicized.”

Supporters of the project argue that the new cultural institution would increase Hong Kong’s tourism revenue since Beijing’s Palace Museum welcomes more than fourteen million people annually. For Avery Ng, chairman of the League of Social Democrats in Hong Kong, exhibiting loaned works from the Beijing museum is equivalent to “cultural whitewashing by introducing more Chinese history and culture that is perceived to be positive.” Beijing’s Palace Museum is located just north of Tiananmen Square, where troops and tanks killed hundreds of students participating in pro-democracy protests in 1989. In recent demonstrations, protesters have carried models of tanks and paper versions, which they threw at police officers.