Artists Save Home of Singer and Civil Rights Activist Nina Simone

Nina Simone’s house in Tryon, North Carolina. Photo: Travis Dove, the New York Times

Shortly after the three-room childhood home of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone appeared on the market last year, African American artists Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, and Adam Pendleton came together to purchase and preserve the building, Randy Kennedy of the New York Times reports.

While Simone’s family lived in several homes in Tryon, North Carolina, the house at Thirty East Livingston Street is the one she was born in. Upon learning of its uncertain future, the four artists leapt into action, combining their assets to place the winning bid of $95,000 for the property. “It wasn’t long after the election that this all began to happen, and I was desperate like a lot of people to be engaged, and this felt like exactly the right way,” Johnson said. “My feeling when I learned that this house existed was just an incredible urgency to make sure it didn’t go away.”

Kevin McIntyre, a former economic development director for Polk County, originally purchased the house for $100,000 in 2005 and had worked on restoring it before he encountered financial difficulties. He had hoped to make it into a museum and community center. McIntyre tracked down Simone’s brother Carrol Waymon to learn how the home looked when Simone lived there.

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April 26, 2017

Issa Samb (1945–2017)

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.”

April 26, 2017

Mika Tajima and Patricia Treib Named Artadia 2017 New York Award Winners

Mika Tajima, Meridian Gold, 2016.

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.

April 26, 2017

Jonathan Demme (1944–2017)

Jonathan Demme. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo

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.

April 26, 2017

Metropolitan Museum Considers Charging Out-of-State Visitors Admission Fees

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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.

April 26, 2017

Jean Pigozzi to Build Foundation for Contemporary African Art

Jean Pigozzi

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.

April 26, 2017

French Presidential Candidates Reveal Proposals for Art and Culture

From left: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.

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.

April 26, 2017

Public Petitions Against New Berlin Museum’s Design

Design rendering of the Museum of the 20th Century in Berlin. Photo: Herzog & de Meuron

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.

April 26, 2017

Artists Plaster France with Humorous Campaign Posters

Fake presidential campaign posters outside a poling site in Montpelier. Photo: Efix

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.

April 25, 2017

Marisol Estate Bequeathed to Albright-Knox Art Gallery

View of Marisol’s New York studio. Photo: Jason Mandella

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.”