Iraqi Troops Poised to Reclaim Mosul and Rescue City’s Heritage Sites

The “crooked minaret” of the Great Nur al-Din Mosque.

Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper writes that Iraqi troops may be close to reclaiming the millennia-old city of Mosul, which ISIS seized in October 2014. There are still many concerns for the city’s 750,000 residents, who could be seriously injured or killed in the crossfire. There are also worries about the city’s remaining antiquities and historic buildings, many of which have been destroyed by ISIS. In February 2015, the terrorist group annihilated priceless objects from the Mosul Museum’s collection. Only days later, it destroyed monuments in the ancient city of Nineveh.

With logistical support from the American military, Iraqi forces started an offensive last October to rescue the city. Since February, they’ve been able to control Mosul to the east and north of the Tigris River, which includes the suburbs as well as Nineveh and the museum. ISIS, however, has continued to monopolize the city and the spaces to its west.

Should Iraq take back the city, heritage experts are at the ready to save mosques, churches, and other edifices, such as the “crooked minaret” of the Great Nur al-Din Mosque from the twelfth century, which is in need of immediate and scrupulous repair.

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April 25, 2017

High Museum of Art Acquires Fifty-Four Artworks from Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Joe Light, Untitled,1987, enamel, seashells, stones, artificial plants, wood, glass, television console, dimensions variable. Photo: Kathryn Kolb.

Atlanta’s High Museum of Art has acquired fifty-four artworks from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, also based in Atlanta, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of artworks made by African Americans in the American South. This combined gift and purchase—made up of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper—is a major boon to the museum’s collection. Some of the artists represented in the gift/purchase include the quilt-makers of Gee’s Bend, Thorton Dial, Ronald Lockett, Joe Minter, Joe Light, Royal Robertson, Georgia Speller, Eldren Bailey, and Vernon Burwell.

Rand Suffolk, the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. director of the High Museum of Art, said, “This gift dovetails remarkably well with our existing collection—essentially adding strength on strength to one of the most distinctive and important collections of its kind. We’re grateful to the Souls Grown Deep Foundation for the opportunity to deepen our commitment to these artists and recognize their impact on contemporary art.”

“This landmark acquisition is a capstone of years of collaboration with the High Museum of Art, the anchoring institution in the foundation’s hometown of Atlanta. We are very pleased to add dozens of significant works to the High’s collection of contemporary art and look forward to years of future collaboration through insightful programming, displays and publications,” said the President of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, Maxwell L. Anderson.

In February, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco acquired sixty-two works from Souls Grown Deep—another major gift from the foundation.

April 25, 2017

Art in America Editor in Chief Steps Down

Lindsay Pollock

Lindsay Pollock, the editor in chief of Art in America, has announced that she will resign after the release of the magazine’s June/July issue. After serving six years in the position, she “decided the moment is right to move on to other projects and possibilities.”

“It has been a great honor to work with such a talented and loyal group of editors, designers, production managers, and sales representatives at this distinguished magazine,” Pollock said in a statement. “I am also grateful for the hundreds of writers and artists who have collaborated with us over the years. Their generosity of spirit was genuinely inspiring, while the ongoing respect and support of our readers made my role rewarding each and every day.”

Prior to joining the magazine, Pollock worked as a reporter for Bloomberg News and the Art Newspaper. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in 2003 and her bachelor’s degree in art history from Barnard College.

April 25, 2017

Artists Band Together to Support Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike

Dignity Strike demand poster (left) and a second poster in Arabic (right). Photo: Decolonize This Place

Artist and activist group Decolonize This Place is campaigning on behalf of Palestinian prisoners who began a massive hunger strike on April 17 in protest of the dehumanizing conditions they face while incarcerated in detention facilities in Israel. “From now until the prisoners call off the strike, we will be posting creative contributions on a daily basis,” the group said in a statement. Dubbed “Dignity Strike!”, the effort is spearheaded by artists, writers, and scholars who want to raise awareness about the prisoners’ denial of basic rights.

The more than 1,500 Palestinians participating in the hunger strike plan to continue with the action until the government declares it will meet their thirteen demands for improved medical care, increased family visits, and an end to detaining individuals who have not yet been charged, among others.

According to the Electronic Intifada, several men have already been hospitalized, and officials are refusing to negotiate with them. “When it comes to the hunger strike by terrorists in Israeli jails, I take the approach of Margaret Thatcher,” Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Facebook. The former British prime minister ignored a hunger strike carried out by prisoners in Northern Ireland’s Maze prison in 1981—by the end of the strike ten prisoners had died.

April 25, 2017

A4 Art Museum Reopens in Chengdu

The new Luxlakes A4 Art Museum.

The A4 Art Museum, a private institution founded by Luxelakes, a real estate development company, just reopened its new building about 2.5 miles away from its original location in the Chinese city of Chengdu, writes Lisa Movius of the Art Newspaper. The museum’s current exhibition, “Create Spaces,” which runs through July 16, is a group effort highlighting the works of thirteen contemporary Chinese and international artists. The museum was founded in 2008, and closed in late 2015 to rebuild and relocate.

The building itself is almost 38,000 square feet, and overlooks a manmade lake. An events hall, library, and children’s art center is scheduled to open next year, in addition to a new subway line that will take visitors directly to the Tianfu New Area, the district where the A4 is located. A theater will also be opening at the museum in 2019.

The A4 will put together four exhibitions a year, and host more than one hundred educational events, along with residencies, fellowships, and cultural exchanges. “Though we are not downtown, we do outreach and public art. It is not enough to just do a show, we have to make audiences understand it—through media, key opinion leaders, and reaching kids,” said Sunny Sun Li, the museum’s artistic director. In its previous spot, the museum brought in 200,000 visitors a year. Sun expects more people will be coming to the new space.

April 25, 2017

National Galleries of Scotland Digitizes Its Massive Holdings

An image from the NGS’s online catalogue: John Duncan, Saint Bride, 1913. Photo: Antonia Reeve.

The National Galleries of Scotland, or NGS—which is made up of the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art—has digitized about forty thousand pieces from its vast collection of ninety-five thousand works, writes Claire Voon of Hyperallergic. An initial batch of images can be accessed on its website. NGS will work to add the rest of the images over the next five years.

Searches for works on the NGS’s site can be done via artist, subject, object type, style, century, color, school, artistic movement, and gallery. The initiative coincides with the Scottish National Gallery’s renovation project that will triple its amount of exhibition space.

April 25, 2017

International Forum Established to Protect Cultural Heritage Sites

At a meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum on April 24, 2017 in Athens.

In the wake of ubiquitous terrorist attacks and in the spirit of international cooperation and education—especially in the face of growing extremist and right-wing sentiment throughout the globe—Egypt, Iran, Peru, Bolivia, China, Iraq, Greece, and Italy are forming a coalition to prevent further assaults on threatened historic sites, reports the Greek Observer.

Modeled after UNESCO and other agencies tasked with protecting cultural heritage, the Ancient Civilizations Forum, or the ACForum, will guard against the destruction and deterioration of artifacts and edifices of ancient cultures. Its first ministerial meeting was held at the Zappeion Conference Hall in Athens on April 24. Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias, whose government is spearheading the project along with China, said the group would run joint projects to promote “dialogue in the face of fanaticism, and culture in the face of terrorism.”

The forum plans to meet on an annual basis to discuss its progress. The chairmanship of the meetings will rotate from country to country. In 2018, the ACForum will come together in Bolivia, followed by Peru in 2020 and Iraq in 2021. “We’re only just getting started,” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said.

April 24, 2017

Ceysson & Bénétière to Open New York Space in May

Claude Viallat, 2015/217, 2015.

On May 6, François Ceysson and Loïc Bénétière will open their fifth location and first gallery space in New York at 956 Madison Avenue. Founded in Saint-Étienne in 2006, Ceysson & Bénétière has since expanded to Paris, Luxembourg, and Geneva. Keeping with tradition, an exhibition of works by Claude Viallat will inaugurate the space. (The dealers opened all of their galleries with shows featuring the artist.)

According to a statement released by Ceysson & Bénétière, the move to New York was “a logical next step” for the dealers, who will organize shows featuring both established and emerging artists. Following “Claude Viallat: Major Works,” exhibitions of Lauren Luloff, Patrick Saytour, Wallace Whitney, and Daniel Dezeuze will be hosted by the space.

April 24, 2017

Nazi-Looted Painting to be Auctioned Despite Protests

Bartholomeus van der Helst, Portrait of a Man, 1647. Photo: Im Kinsky

Vienna auction house Im Kinsky is embroiled in an ownership dispute between the descendants of the Schloss family and the current owner of a seventeenth-century, Dutch old master painting, Kate Connolly of The Guardian reports. Bartholomeus van der Helst’s Portrait of a Man, 1647, was one of hundreds of works owned by Jewish-German collector Adolphe Schloss that were confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. It is now lot number 476 in Im Kinsky’s upcoming old master paintings auction on April 26. Despite the heirs’ protest of the sale and the questionable provenance of the work, the auction house claims it has the right to sell it.

“Right now what we have is a legal mess, a clash of national laws across Europe leaves private art collectors exposed and I wanted to demonstrate that,” Ernst Ploil, one of the managing directors of Im Kinsky, said when asked about the sale. While originally stolen from Schloss’s chateau in France, where it is illegal to sell artworks that were originally looted, in Austria and Germany owners of stolen works bought in good faith are not required to restitute them.

Lawyer Antoine Comte, who represents the Schloss heirs, said the family wants the painting returned to them. “As long as we don’t get the painting back that was unlawfully taken from the family, this amounts to an appalling continuation of Nazism and the crimes of Nazism. The Austrians fall back on their own legal system to say they are in the right, but they don’t give a damn about the moral aspect of this.” He added, “The only satisfaction we have is knowing that it’s unlikely to be able to leave Austria. It will not get very far.”

April 24, 2017

Rome Prize Announces 2017–2018 Winners

Sanford Biggers

The American Academy in Rome has announced the recipients of its annual Rome prize, which supports innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities through fellowships at its eleven-acre campus in Rome, Italy. Sanford Biggers, Abigail Deville, Rochelle Feinstein, Allen Frame, and Beverly Mciver are the awardees for the visual arts category. They will be provided with room and board, a stipend that ranges from $16,000 and $28,000 depending on the length of the fellowship, and studio space.

Chaired by Holly Block, executive director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York, the jury for the visual arts comprised artists Polly Apfelbaum, Josephine Meckseper, and Lorna Simpson.

Brandon Clifford and Keith Krumwiede won fellowships in the architecture category, while Jennifer Birkeland, Jonathan A. Scelsa, and Tricia Treacy won for design.