After a previous announcement of the artists who will exhibit in Iraq’s pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale, details regarding the ancient Iraqi artifacts that will be displayed alongside the contemporary works have been released by the Ruya Foundation, whose chair and cofounder Tamara Chalabi is curating the exhibition with Paolo Colombo.
Titled “Archaic,” the exhibition will feature forty artifacts spanning six millennia, from the Neolithic age to the Neo-Babylonian period, that were drawn from the collection of the National Museum of Iraq displayed alongside works by artists Luay Fadhil, Sherko Abbas, Sakar Sleman, Ali Arkady, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Nadine Hattom, Jawad Salim, Shaker Hassan Al Said, and Francis Alÿs. Most of the loaned objects have never left the country, except for a few which were recently recovered after the 2003 lootings of the museum.
The artifacts will include cylinder and stamp seals, cuneiform tablets, medical objects, a musical instrument, and figurines of animals, deities, people, and boats, as well as everyday objects such as jugs, sieves, and toys. A number of pieces were returned to the National Museum from the Netherlands via an Interpol directive in 2010. These include a Babylonian stone weight measure in the shape of a dove and a clay figurine depicting what is presumed to be a fertility goddess dating from around 5000 BCE. Highlights also include a distinctive cylinder seal from the Akkadian period that depicts three parallel scenes from the epic of Gilgamesh and a circular clay school text from the Babylonian period that was used to teach writing. The artifacts were selected by Tamara Chalabi, in collaboration with Qais Hussein Rashid, the director of the department of antiquities at the National Museum, his team, and archaeologist Lamia Gailani Werr.
Issa Samb, untitled, 2010, welded shovels. Installation view, RAW Material Company, Zone B, Dakar. Photo: Sophie Thun.
Senegalese artist Issa Samb has died, according to Damola Durosomo in OkayAfrica. Also known as Joe Ouakam, Samb was a cofounder of Dakar-based collective Laboratoire Agit’Art. He was a playwright and poet in addition to being an artist who worked in media ranging from painting to sculpture to performance art. His work was featured in a retrospective at the National Art Gallery, Dakar, in 2010, and was included in documenta 13, in 2012.
Discussing art in Dakar for the September 2016 issue of Artforum, curator Koyo Kouoh said, “Samb and Laboratoire Agit’Art never felt like they had to define themselves or justify themselves to anyone, or show themselves to the so-called order, the order always being Western, European, French, and so on. This is why Samb is such a seminal artist in our field today and why his work is extremely empowering.”
The winners of the Artadia 2017 New York awards are Mika Tajima and Patricia Treib. They will each receive an unrestricted cash prize of $10,000. This is Artadia’s second year awarding funds to New York artists. Artadia received 683 applications, which were open to all visual artists living in New York City for over two years, working in any media, and at any stage of their career.
The finalists, which consisted of Dawn Kasper, Michael Portnoy, and Jessica Vaughn, in addition to Tajima and Treib, were selected by jurors Kimberly Drew, social media manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; artist Jonah Freeman; and Matthew Lyons, curator at The Kitchen in New York. Then a second round of judging, which consisted of studio visits, commenced. Laura Raicovich, president and executive director of the Queens Museum in New York, joined Lyons for this round of evaluations.
“Raicovich and I really responded to Patricia’s explanation of how her paintings progress in this very time-based manner and how they explore perception and memory in a very poetic and evocative way,” Lyons told Lauren Cavalli of artforum.com. Commenting on Tajima’s work, he said that her engagement with the digital world and our information society as well as her ability to fold that into her sculptural and wall-based works made an impression.
Artadia is a national nonprofit organization that supports artists with unrestricted, merit-based awards. Since 1999, Artadia has awarded over $3 million to more than three hundred artists in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, best known for working on critically acclaimed films such as The Silence of the Lambs, 1991, and Philadelphia, 1993, has died at his home in Manhattan at the age of seventy-three, NPR reports.
Born in Baldwin, Long Island, in 1944, Demme wanted to become a veterinarian, but changed course after failing college chemistry. He began writing movie reviews for his campus paper and eventually left college to accept an apprenticeship with producer Roger Corman. Demme started out as a publicist before trying his hand as a director.
Demme’s cinematic output over the course of his career ranges from Beloved, 1998, an adaption of Toni Morrison’s eponymous novel inspired by the story of an African American slave who flees to a free state after the Civil War, to the Cold War thriller The Manchurian Candidate, 2004, to documentaries on Neil Young and Demme’s radial cousin who worked as a priest in Harlem. He perhaps earned the widest recognition for his haunting film The Silence of the Lambs, which earned him five Oscars in 1991, including one for best picture and director.
The film was featured in the March 1991 issue of Artforum, for which Jeanne Silverthorne wrote: “The Silence of the Lambs is as tense a thriller as Hollywood makes, but it is also, like so many of the films of Alfred Hitchcock, a thoughtful, grim, perverse meditation on sex and social identity. In images that work poetically and metaphorically as much as to tell a story, Demme, working from a novel by Thomas Harris, describes a society crying out for a transformation of its basic structures as they are ordered by gender, but harrowed by the process of change.”
More recently, he directed the comedy Ricki and the Flash, 2015, starring Meryl Streep. Commenting on his work, Demme said: “I’ve always followed my enthusiasm. Whether the pictures have turned out good or not is one thing—but I've always had a lot of enthusiasm for the project at hand.”
Following director Thomas P. Campbell’s resignation in February and a recent wave of layoffs to prevent a ballooning multimillion deficit from growing, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is discussing whether to charge admission to people visiting from outside of the state, Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times reports.
Ben Sarle, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio, confirmed that the leaders of the institution were weighing the option. He said, “We are still waiting to see the proposed plan between the Met and our department of cultural affairs. The Met is one of our most beloved, historic New York cultural institutions, and we are ready to work with them to make sure they have the resources they need to thrive.”
The museum currently has suggested admission prices—$25 for adults, $17 for senior citizens, and $12 for students (children are free)—but many visitors don't pay. At the end of the 2016 fiscal year, the museum found that only 13 percent of its overall revenue, about $39 million, was raised through ticket sales. If admission fees were required the institution would earn millions more.
As a result of the museum’s $10 million deficit—which was projected to reach $40 million if the institution didn’t change gears—the Met enforced a hiring freeze, postponed the building of its new $600 million modern and contemporary art wing, and reduced the number of annual exhibitions it organized to forty from sixty. While charging visitors admission is one way to increase revenue and maintain financial stability, the move may adversely affect the institution’s reputation as a public institution that has been free to the public for more than a century.
The Met welcomes roughly seven million visitors every year. Sixty-three percent of those visitors are from outside New York State. Whether the museum will decide to narrow the number of people eligible for free admission further by limiting it to only residents of New York City is still up in the air. Doing so could potentially cause intense indignation from people who commute to the city from New Jersey, Connecticut, and Upstate New York for work.
Another concern for the institution is whether the city would reduce the amount of money allocated annually. The Met receives $26 million from the city, the largest sum given to an arts institution. Yet, the monies only fund 8 percent of the Met’s $332 million operating costs. Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and acting chief executive officer, said that the museum is “looking at everything to bridge our budget deficit,” and emphasized that these talks are still in the early stages.
French venture capitalist Jean Pigozzi, renowned for his collection of contemporary African art—some of which will be shown in “Art, Africa: the New Atelier” at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, opening April 26—is planning on building a foundation and exhibition space for these works, reports Gareth Harris of the Art Newspaper. “It would be sad if thirty years of work disappeared, and the 10,000-strong collection was dispersed, if I were to fall under a taxi one day in London. It is still incredible that neither the Museum of Modern Art, nor Beaubourg [the Centre Pompidou in Paris], nor the Metropolitan Museum of Art have a department of contemporary African art. In five years’ time, I want to create an [operational] space in Europe,” he said in an interview for Le Quotidien de l’Art.
Pigozzi started his collection in 1989, going to sub-Saharan African countries with André Magnin, a curator, looking for art. “I held myself to three rules: the artists had to be from black Africa, live there, and work there,” he said. In an interview for the “Art, Africa: the New Atelier” exhibition catalogue, Suzanne Pagé, the artistic director of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, said that a number of people have criticized Pigozzi’s collection though, as some of it seems to reflect a “neo-colonial approach that privileges handicrafts or self-taught artists at the expense of work that is more in line with the [scholarship] criteria of international art.”
“Deep down, what do artists care about categorization? . . . African artists speak to us about themselves, their society, their reality. This demands an open mind . . . colonization negated the reality of certain populations, and today the future of Africa is in the hands of Africans,” responded Pigozzi to the accusations.
The cultural budget for France under its current president, François Hollande, shrank by about $468 million during his time in office, despite promises of maintaining funding for the arts throughout his campaign. The current candidates for the French presidency—centrist Emmanuel Macron and right-winger Marine Le Pen—have also made mention of policies for French arts and culture, writes Victoria Stapley-Brown of the Art Newspaper. The final polling day for France’s new president is May 7.
Macron, who is deeply pro-Europe, said he wants to keep the arts budget steady—he’d like to provide an annual “culture pass” for young people, worth about $544 per person, and launch an Erasmus (the EU’s student exchange program) for curators, artists, and other arts professionals. Macron would also like to create an endowment for the upkeep of heritage sites, in addition to a $218 million fund for various cultural initiatives.
Le Pen has made no specific mention of a budgetary commitment to culture. As a staunch nationalist, however, she wants to increase funding allotted to preserving French heritage by 25 percent. She is keen on preventing foreigners and buyers in the private sector from purchasing national buildings, and would like to create an online platform for arts sponsorship and philanthropy. She would also like to establish more residency opportunities for artists of all ages and disciplines, and put more energy into supporting French contemporary artists.
A recently created public initiative has launched a petition against Berlin’s prospective Museum of the 20th Century (M20) due to its controversial design, reports Monopol. In the petition, the new organization, #forumskultur: kulturforum, calls for a public discussion over the future and design of the museum.
Addressed to minister of culture Monika Grütters, the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage, and Senate building director Regula Lüscher, the petition was spearheaded by Kristin Feireiss, cofounder of the architectural forum Aedes, and it currently has more than five hundred signatories including architects, city planners, artists, and publicists.
#forumskultur: kulturforum criticizes the financing for the new building, claiming that the current budget of $218 million is unrealistic. The group is demanding a more transparent financial plan, for images and the specs of the new design to be made available, and for a public discussion to be held before construction commences.
In addition, the Future Foundation Berlin, a forum of citizens concerned with urban-planning, had asked for substantial changes to the new building—specifically proposing to reduce its size, or even completely change its design.
After the first design competition for M20 did not result in a winner, a second competition was held. Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron’s long and low barn-like design was selected as the winning proposal. The museum will be built in the Kulturforum, near Mies van der Rohe’s New National Gallery and the Hans Scharoun-designed Philharmonic, with a slated completion date of 2021.
Last Sunday, just in time for the first round of the French presidential elections, artist and musician Efix replaced official candidate posters at a polling site in Montpelier with posters featuring cartoon characters based on the “Little Miss” and “Mr. Men” children’s books by Roger Hargreaves.
In an interview with France Info, Efix explained his motive, “I thought it was necessary to energize the city and make the elections more jovial. The ‘Little Miss’ books are familiar to everyone from childhood and touch all generations.”
Efix’s Facebook post featuring a photo of his installation, which promoted candidates like “Mr. Dreamer,” “Mrs. Authority,” and “Mr. Perfect,” was shared more than 10,000 times. However, the city of Montpelier had not approved the art installation and so officials quickly covered over the cartoons with portraits of the eleven actual candidates.
During France’s presidential campaign other pop culture icons turned up in campaign-style posters. Earlier this month, Le Figaro noted that the Smurfs, Pinocchio, and even French actress Marion Cotillard could be seen in fake political posters around Paris. The paper spoke to local street artist Combo, who explained that the election was encroaching on his territory and so he chose to fight back. “I do not think that the politicians are aware, but their posters began to cover our walls—places we use for street art. So we did the same, it’s a good war.”
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo has received the largest gift of art in its history—the entire estate of Venezuelan American artist Marisol. Upon her death in 2016 at the age of eighty-five, María Sol Escobar left the museum more than one hundred sculptures spanning her sixty-year career, over 150 works on paper, thousands of photographs and slides, and a collection of works by other artists.
“The Albright-Knox is proud to have been the first museum to acquire Marisol’s work,” director Janne Sirén said in a statement. “We are moved, and profoundly grateful, that Marisol was similarly proud of her association with the Albright-Knox and took the extraordinary step of leaving her estate to our museum.”
The museum purchased its first works by the artist—The Generals, 1961–62, from her solo show at Stable Gallery, and Baby Girl, 1963—in 1962 and 1964. Marisol’s longtime friend and co-executor of her estate Carlos Brillembourg, told the Buffalo News that the artist was incredibly grateful when Knox bought the works. He added, “I think it’s a wonderful thing for an artist to have a museum take care of their archive because it means that it will always be in public view and not dispersed among private collections.”
Highlights of the gift include The Funeral, 1996, based on John F. Kennedy Jr.’s funerary procession, a portrait of the artist and her mother, and The Hungarians, 1955, a family portrait featuring a mother, father, toddler, and an infant with bulging eyes and a shallow face. The museum will soon begin the process of cataloguing and photographing the vast collection.