Artists Building Trump’s Border Wall Send Bill to Mexico

Mary Mihelic at the border wall she and David Gleeson built in response to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Artists David Gleeson and Mary Mihelic decided it was time to deliver on one of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s promises to America—the building of a border wall between the United States and Mexico to be paid for by Mexico, Melena Ryzik of the New York Times reports.

The two artists, who work under the name of t. Rutt, erected a structure made of fifty-two cinder blocks. The beginning of the notorious border wall is located twenty yards from the fence dividing the two countries in Jacumba Hot Springs, California, seventy miles southeast of San Diego. They also thought it was time to test Trump’s belief that Mexico would pay for such an architectural feat. They mailed an itemized bill for $14,635.42 to the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, and wrote Trump Tower as the return address.

They were given permission to use the land where the structure was erected by real-estate developer, property owner, and Republican David Landman, who admitted that he will probably vote for Trump in the upcoming election. When asked why he would let the artists create an anti-Trump artwork on his land he said, “I don’t know, it just sounds like the right thing to do at the time.”

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February 22, 2017

Denver Art Museum Receives $12 Million Gift

Rendering of the Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center adjacent to the Denver Art Museum’s North Building.

The Denver Art Museum has announced that Colorado philanthropists Anna and John J. Sie have pledged $12 million to support the institution’s North Building revitalization project, which aims to unify the museum’s campus.

The donation will be used to build the Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center, an elliptical two-story facility with a transparent exterior that was conceived by Denver-based Fentress Architects and Boston architect Machado Silvetti. The design for the center draws from Gio Ponti and James Sudler Associates’s 1970s North Building, which was celebrated as the first high-rise art museum ever constructed in North America. The seven-story building currently houses the museum’s permanent collection.

The new fifty-thousand-square feet welcome center will boast of visitor-centric amenities including a restaurant, café, and ticketing area, as well as flexible program spaces, art storage, and the primary conservation lab. The institution plans to begin construction on the project by the end of 2017.

February 22, 2017

Seijun Suzuki (1923–2017)

Seijun Suzuki

Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki, who blended Pop Art and the Yakuza to create unconventional crime dramas, died in a hospital in Tokyo on February 13. The ninety-three-year-old director’s death was announced by Nikkatsu, the studio that famously fired him in 1967 for making Branded to Kill, which is now considered a classic.

Born in 1923, Suzuki served in Japan’s Imperial Navy during World War II and survived being shipwrecked twice, before joining the Shochiku studio as an assistant director in 1948. The newly reopened Nikkatsu hired him in 1954 and he remained there for twelve years producing forty films for the studio. Nikkatsu fired Suzuki after he directed the visually striking Tokyo Drift (1966) and then the black and white film Branded to Kill shortly after, both of which are widely celebrated by other filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch. The studio had tried unsuccessfully to get Suzuki to tame his avant-garde visions for the films, which were intended to be straightforward gangster flicks.

Suzuki won a settlement after filing an action for unfair dismissal against the studio, but was then unable to get work. “They said my film was incomprehensible,” Suzuki told The Guardian in 2006. “It didn’t matter whether I thought it was a good film. I couldn’t disagree. I just had to take it. And once Nikkatsu sacked me, none of the other film companies would hire me.”

February 22, 2017

Sarah Forrest Wins 2017 Margaret Tait Award

Sarah Forrest

Glasgow-based artist Sarah Forrest was selected as the winner of the 2017 Margaret Tait Award. She will receive a $12,000 commission to create a new piece of work, and the opportunity to present this work at Glasgow Film Festival in 2018.

“I’m delighted to receive the Margaret Tait Award,” Forrest said. “Her work and approach as a filmmaker and writer has been influential for me, so to receive an award that celebrates her legacy is a humbling experience. So too was my inclusion in a shortlist of such incredible artists. The work that I have proposed will begin with a period of research on the Isle of Lewis, where I will be looking initially at the island’s rich history of prophetic ‘second sight,’ drawing from stories that I heard from my mother who grew up there. This work will build on recurring themes in my practice that look at appearance, perception, doubt, and belief, with the commission being an exciting and significant opportunity for me to explore these in a longer form work.”

Forrest studied at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, before earning her master’s degree from the Glasgow School of Art in 2010. She also studied at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Forrest has had solo exhibitions at CCA in Glasgow, Supplement in London, and Kunstraum Dusseldorf in Germany. Her work has been presented at international film festivals, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2014, and she has completed numerous residencies, such as the inaugural Margaret Tait Residency in 2012.

February 22, 2017

East London Gallery Accused of Racism and Alt-Right Values

A picture of LD50.

Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper writes that the East London art gallery LD50 has been accused of promoting alt-right values. In a statement on the gallery’s website, its representatives say that art and culture have now become the exclusive provenance of the left, and that any viewpoints that may clash with leftist ideology are “now publicly vilified, delegitimated [sic] and intimidated with menaces.”

Many want LD50 shut down after a series of talks hosted by right-wing figures were organized at the space. Last summer the gallery had a “neoreaction conference,” with alt-right speakers such as Iben Thranholm (a Danish journalist and Christian who is an unremitting critic of European immigration policy), Peter Brimelow (an anti-immigration activist), and Brett Stevens (an editor at a far-right website based in the US who once applauded Norwegian mass murderer and racist Anders Breivik). The conference was followed up with an exhibition titled “Amerika,” which featured a cardboard dummy of Donald Trump and images of Pepe the Frog, a once innocuous internet meme that has been appropriated by the right.

Shut Down LD50 Gallery is a Tumblr blog that recently said the gallery “is using the cover of the contemporary art scene and academia to legitimize the spread of materials [that have drawn on fascist traditions] and the establishment of a culture of hatred,” and that LD50, “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programs to appear in London in the last decade.” Many artists have gone onto the blog to excoriate the gallery. LD50 has responded to criticism by saying “the role of art is to provide a vehicle for the free exploration of ideas, even and perhaps especially where these are challenging, controversial or indeed distasteful . . . Art should have exemplified this willingness to discuss new ideas, but it has just become apparent to us that this sphere now (and perhaps for the last few years) stands precisely for the opposite of this.”

February 22, 2017

Andy Warhol’s Death Not as Unexpected as Once Thought

Andy Warhol

Art critic Blake Gopnik, who is currently at work on a biography of Andy Warhol, has written a piece for the New York Times explaining that the artist’s 1987 death after gallbladder surgery was not as unexpected as it was initially made out to be. Dr. John Ryan, a retired surgeon and medical historian, said, “This was major, major surgery—not routine—in a very sick person.” Ryan was prompted into researching the artist’s death through his brother, writer and art historian Hal Foster.

Warhol had a family history of gallbladder trouble—his father had his removed in 1928, the year of his son’s birth. The artist had more than a decade’s worth of gallbladder problems as well, perhaps exacerbated after he’d been shot in 1968 by Valerie Solanis, a writer and radical feminist famous for her 1967 SCUM Manifesto (SCUM is an acronym—it stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men). Warhol had also been quite ill for at least a month before his surgery: he barely ate, became quite emaciated and dehydrated, and took speed every day to try and keep up with his demanding schedule. When the artist was finally operated on by Dr. Bjorn Thorbjarnarson—a sought-after surgeon famous for treating the Shah of Iran—he saw that Warhol’s gallbladder was completely taken over by gangrene (it disintegrated when he tried to take it out). He also had nine damaged organs, and a rupture in his abdominal muscles that gave the artist a tremendous hernia (after Warhol was shot, he spent the rest of his life wearing girdles to try and hold in his bowels—his body never fully recovered from the shooting). Thorbjarnarson repaired the artist’s abdominal wall during the surgery.

Despite these problems, Warhol’s operation went well—the artist was in his hospital room making telephone calls by evening. A nurse checked in on him at 4:00 AM; he seemed fine. But two hours later, he was unresponsive. His face turned blue and all efforts at resuscitation failed. Via an autopsy, it was found that Warhol’s heart had trembled and stopped—it was a “ventricular fibrillation” that had killed him. Stewart Redmond Walsh, a professor of vascular surgery at the National University of Ireland in Galway, has done research into sudden death after surgery. He said that when a very sick body experiences extreme stress through a major surgical procedure, it can be fatal, explaining that, “the artist’s bad luck should be thought of as less like a lightning strike than like being hit by a car while crossing the street.”

February 22, 2017

ARCOmadrid’s Thirty-Sixth Edition Launches with 200 Galleries from Twenty-Seven Countries

ARCOmadrid 2016.

ARCOmadrid kicked off today with two hundred galleries representing twenty-seven countries. The thirty-sixth edition of the fair will spotlight Argentina and feature twelve galleries from there in the curated section “Argentina Platforma,” including Alberto Greco, Eduardo Stupia, and Mirtha Dermisache.

“Diverse and intense, the present of the Argentine scene opens its doors in ARCOmadrid,” Pablo Avelluto, minister of culture of the Argentine Republic, said. “A very small sample of what is happening on the other side of the sea, in the other hemisphere. The curatorial challenge was enormous: the Argentine presentation required a program as intense and unique as the pieces that compose it. But the presence of Argentine artistic momentum should not be read in terms of ‘landing.’ We will be guests, not invaders.” He added, “The invitation from ARCOmadrid is an unbeatable opportunity: Argentina will be an experience [that] radiates out across more than twenty points in Madrid.”

ARCOmadrid will also have a large percentage of Latin American galleries. Forty-three galleries are from ten countries in the region. Fairgoers will be able to view the Isabel and Agustín Coppel collection at the Fundación Banco Santander; the Lima-based Hochschild collection at Sala Alcalá 31; and the Costantini Collection at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, which is also where the ARCO Foundation dinner and “‘A’ Awards for Collecting” ceremony will be held.

February 22, 2017

South Africa’s Zeitz Museum to Open Photography Center with Major Donation

Rendering of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town’s new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, expected to open in September, announced that it has received landmark gifts from the Roger Ballen Foundation and the Eiger Foundation that will contribute to the longterm sustainability of the museum.

While the amount of the gifts was not disclosed, the donation from the Roger Ballen Foundation will allow Zeitz MoCAA to establish a center for photography and will support exhibitions, educational initiatives, and public programming. The center will be one of six others at the institution, including centers dedicated to costumes, art education, the moving image, performance practice, and curatorial excellence. The museum will also receive one signed edition of all of Ballen’s works from 1968 to 1982, as well as any future editions until his death. Throughout the course of his four-decade career as a photographer, Ballen has documented small towns and intimate interiors across South Africa.

“It has been my great desire to contribute to the understanding of photography in South Africa in the country that I call home,” Ballen said. “By donating my archive and finance to Zeitz MoCAA, I wish to commit to the ongoing success of this important museum in Africa and ensure that photography is guaranteed a place in the museum’s activities.”

February 22, 2017

Paris Archives Digitize Tributes to Victims of November 2015 Terror Attacks

Sidewalk in front of the Belle Equipe restaurant, one of the sites targeted by terrorists on November 13, 2015.

In the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, archivists working for the mayor’s office collected some 7,709 letters, poems, photos, and drawings that were left on the sidewalks in front of sites of the shootings and around the Place de la République, which became the city’s largest shrine and collective mourning site. BFMTV reports that these documents, which were presented in an exhibition at the Archives de Paris last year, have now all been digitized and uploaded to a website where they can be searched by format, original location (Bataclan, Place de la République, etc.), or collection date.

February 22, 2017

Michael Werner to Receive Rank of Chevalier from France’s Legion of Honor

Michael Werner. Photo: Andrea Stappert.

Art dealer Michael Werner, who has galleries in New York, London, and Märkisch Wilmersdorf in Germany, will receive France’s Legion of Honor in the rank of chevalier at a private ceremony on the evening of February 22 in Berlin. The honor is being given in recognition of Werner’s tremendous contributions to the arts. The award is France’s highest decoration.

Werner donated 130 artworks in 2012 to the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. The museum’s director, Fabrice Hergott, said the gift was “the most significant enrichment of the museum’s collection since the bequest made by Dr. Maurice Giradin in 1953, which led to the creation of the institution.” In 2015, Werner collaborated with the museum for a major retrospective on German artist Markus Lüpertz, who will receive his first US retrospective this summer—a joint effort presented by the Hirshhorn Museum and the Phillips Collection, co-organized by Michael Werner Gallery.