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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July 26, 2017

Frye Art Museum Names Amanda Donnan Curator

Amanda Donnan.

The Frye Art Museum announced today that Amanda Donnan has been appointed
curator. Donnan comes to the Frye from Seattle University, where she served as curator of the University Galleries, in addition to holding a teaching appointment in the department of art and art history.

“I am greatly impressed with her proven track record of working on both a regional and international scale,” said director and CEO Joseph Rosa. “She brings a high caliber of thoughtfulness and a true commitment to working with artists in respectful and creative collaboration. I look forward to the dynamism and vision she will contribute to the museum and Seattle’s greater cultural community.”

Prior to her tenure at Seattle University, Donnan spent six years as assistant curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, where she contributed to the organization of the 2013 Carnegie International and codirected an archival initiative of the museum’s time-based media collection.

July 26, 2017

Philippe de Montebello, Former Director of the Metropolitan Museum, to Lead Acquavella Galleries

Philippe de Montebello.

Former Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello is joining the Acquavella Galleries as director. De Montebello, who has been friends with the organization’s founder, Bill Acquavella, for more than fifty years, will focus on organizing special exhibitions and developing publications.

“I think it’s one of the great art galleries,” de Montebello told Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times in a telephone interview. “We have been talking over the last few years since I left the Met about how I could use some of my academic and other experience with the gallery.”

Since stepping down from the helm of the Met neatly a decade a ago, de Montebello has served as a chairman of the Hispanic Society of America; a professor at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts; an honorary trustee of the Prado Museum; and a host of the PBS TV program NYC-ARTS. The museum veteran retired after more than thirty years as the Met’s eighth, and longest-serving, director.

July 26, 2017

Collector Faces Prison Sentence and $100 Million Fine for Smuggling a Picasso

Pablo Picasso, Head of a Young Woman, 1906.

Spanish collector and billionaire Jaime Botín, the largest shareholder in the Spanish bank Bankinter S.A. and great grandson of the founder of Santander, has been accused of smuggling Pablo Picasso’s Head of a Young Woman, 1906, out of Spain, José María Irujo of El País reports.

Botín could be sentenced to up to four years in prison and ordered to pay a $100 million fine if convicted. The prosecutor is also asking for the court to invoke Article 29 of the Law of Historical Heritage in order to transfer ownership of the work, valued at $30 million, to the state.

Picasso’s portrait, an early work from his Gósol period, was declared a national treasure by the Spanish National Court in May 2015, and, therefore, can not be exported. French authorities confiscated the painting from a yacht in the waters near Corsica, France. Botín is the major shareholder of the business that owns the ship, the Euroshipping Charter Company. Once the canvas was seized it was moved to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, where it will remain until the conclusion of the investigation.

July 26, 2017

Gift of Annie Leibovitz Photos to Nova Scotia Museum Encounters Delays

Annie Leibovitz. Photo: Philip Montgomery / New York Times.

Harley Mintz, a retired Canadian businessman, purchased 2,070 Annie Leibovitz photographs in 2012 for $4.75 million and planned to gift the group of works to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, making him eligible for a generous tax deduction. But years later the Canadian government, which scrutinizes such deductions more carefully than the US, has become reticent to approve it, as its review panel won’t accept the collection’s $20 million valuation, write Sopan Deb and Colin Moynihan of the New York Times. The Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board has only certified 762 of the prints so far, valued at $1.6 million. The gift has been called “a tax grab” by an advisor to the panel. Mintz does not see it this way: “We were asked to help facilitate a major gift to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia that would provide it with a unique collection of art from one of the world’s most praised photographers and that is exactly what we did. Instead of being celebrated, it has been met with resistance, for reasons that we do not understand,” he said. The museum is in the middle of preparing its fourth application to the board for the works’ approval.

Leibovitz has only received half of the $4.75 million purchase from Mintz. She will not receive the rest of the money until the panel approves the gift, as stated in a contract she signed with the businessman. It’s also unclear why Leibovitz agreed to this particular deal if the photos are worth considerably more. Experts say the $20 million valuation for the works isn’t off the mark, provided they are not sold in one fell swoop. (“I can’t imagine that you’re going to sell 2,000 Annie Leibovitz prints at whatever her prices are in a [short] period of time,” said Alan Klinkhoff, a Canadian art dealer.) But a representative for the board, who spoke anonymously on its behalf, said that the artist’s works did not meet its criteria of “outstanding significance and national importance”—even though Leo Glavine, Nova Scotia’s minister of culture, said, “I’m quite mystified as to why this has not been given the significance that it should have received.”

The museum would consider receiving the full collection a major boon, as it would make Halifax a cultural destination. “I know that Nova Scotians and Art Gallery of Nova Scotia visitors are eager and excited to see this collection. I know the results of previous applications—and the length of time it has taken—has been frustrating for the artist, the donor and, most importantly, for Nova Scotians,” said Nancy Noble, the museum’s director. Noble, however, is optimistic that the board will accept the work this time around—a decision is expected in the fall.

July 26, 2017

Cady Noland Sues Collector and Dealers for Copyright Infringement

Cady Noland, Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (Memorial to John Caldwell), 1990, mixed media, dimensions variable.

The artist Cady Noland filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in New York early last week against the collector Wilhelm Schurmann, Berlin’s KOW Gallery, art advisor and dealer Chris D’Amelio, and art dealer Michael Janssen and his gallery, claiming that the group was responsible for creating a forgery of her sculpture Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (Memorial to John Caldwell), 1990, when a conservator refurbished a great deal of it, as much of the work’s facade and other elements, all made from wood, were afflicted with rot. Noland, who says she was not consulted about the conservation, feels that the sculpture is no longer authentically hers, write Eileen Kinsella and Julia Halperin of Artnet. “Wood can be restored, even rotting wood. This is a forgery,” said Andrew Epstein, the artist’s lawyer.

Noland also claims that her rights were violated under New York’s rarely-litigated Visual Artist Rights Act, which allows artists to disown their own works, especially in situations where the artworks have been improperly restored. Noland says the owner of the piece was responsible for its rough condition, as he was “either negligent or indifferent to the work” and “failed . . . to protect the work from rot, deterioration, and exposure to the elements.” Schurmann loaned the artist’s work to the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, Germany, where it was displayed from 1995 to 2005 in an outdoor courtyard.

Noland was made aware of the work’s repair in 2014, faxing a handwritten note to Scott Mueller, the Ohio collector who subsequently purchased it, that said “this is not an artwork” because she was not consulted about Log Cabin’s renovation. The artist filed her lawsuit on July 18, 2017—almost missing the three-year statute of limitations for making a claim of copyright infringement. (Last year, Mueller tried suing Michael Janssen for $1.4 million over the piece—the amount the collector paid for it—because Noland disowned it. He was, however, only given $600,000 for it because he did not register his complaint with the gallery for more than a year after buying the sculpture.)

July 25, 2017

Syrian Film Collective Accuses Milan Triennale of Screening Its Works Sans Consent

Abounaddara, The Prodigal Son’s Progress, 2010, video, sound, color, 5 minutes 27 seconds.

In a Facebook post with the heading “Our films are not available / Nos films ne sont pas disponibles,” the Syrian film collective Abounaddara accused the curators of the Milan Triennale of screening its works without the group’s permission. The show’s organizers approached the filmmakers about participating last November, but Abounaddara declined the offer. “The Triennale of Milan argues that they are not exhibiting films, but rather simply providing monitors connected to the Abounaddara’s Vimeo channel,” said the group in its message. “Can an institution make use of films by the internet and without the consent of their authors? Can a curator decide these films are not artworks, but just internet, and thus ignore the related artistic and moral rights?”

Terra Inquieta” (The Restless Earth), the section of the triennale in which Abounaddara’s works appear, was curated by Massimiliano Gioni, the artistic director of the New Museum in New York. According to a press release for “Terra Inquieta,” the show “explores real and imaginary geographies, reconstructing the odyssey of migrants through personal and collective tales of exodus inspired by varying degrees of urgency and longing” via “the war in Syria, the state of emergency in Lampedusa, life in refugee camps, the figure of the nomad or stateless person, and Italian migration in the early twentieth century.” In response to the exhibition’s conceptual framework, Abounaddara said “the Milan Triennial uses films that speak of the struggle of the Syrians for dignity, in the service of an aesthetic-political discourse on the ‘refugee crisis’ which privileges a Western point of view. There is an abuse of right in [using our works], duplicated with contempt, to which our collective cannot resign, except to renounce our fight for the right to the image.”

July 25, 2017

Merion Estes and Mario Martinez Given 2017 Murray Reich Distinguished Artist Awards

Merion Estes, Cautionary Tale, 2015, fabric collage, spray paint, photo transfers on fabric, 61 x 84".

The New York Foundation for the Arts has announced the winners of the 2017 Murray Reich Distinguished Artist Award, given to artists over fifty years of age who have maintained a steady studio practice and created an exceptional body of work. Merion Estes will use the funds to publish a catalogue raisonné that will accompany her exhibition at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (scheduled to coincide with her eightieth birthday); and Mario Martinez, a New York–based artist, will use his prize toward expanding his work. Each will receive $10,000.

“Receiving this award is so cool because it is the first award of its kind that I’ve received from a mainstream arts organization. I’ve painted and drawn since grade school six decades ago, so this award is confirmation of better professional and artistic developments to come,” said Martinez. Responding to the honor, Estes said, “This is only the second grant I have received in my long career, and I am most grateful.”

Estes and Martinez were selected from a panel made up of artists Cynthia Carlson, Alan Michelson, and Sanford Wurmfiel; arts editor and educator editor Marcia E. Vetrocq; and poet, critic, and curator John Yau. Nominees were recommended by a group of unidentified US art-world professionals. The prize, started by NYFA two years ago with the help of an anonymous donor, is named in honor of the late Murray Reich, a New York–based painter who taught as an art professor at Bard College.

July 25, 2017

University of Chicago Library Receives Nearly Five Hundred Vivian Maier Photographs

Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, Chicago Area, 1971.

Nearly five hundred photographs by the late Vivian Maier were given to the University of Chicago Library by filmmaker and collector John Maloof. The gift comprises never-before-seen vintage prints, along with some of Maier’s personal effects and one of her cameras. “As a new discovery in twentieth-century American photography, Vivian Maier’s work also offers fresh insights into the viewpoints and graphic styles of her contemporaries. This collection of prints will help researchers and students to understand Maier as a working photographer,” said Daniel Meyer, the director of the library’s Special Collections Research Center.

Maier’s work was discovered posthumously. Maloof ended up with more than one hundred thousand of the artist’s images after he purchased the contents of her storage lockers at auction in 2008. She worked as a nanny to support herself financially. A documentary about her, Finding Vivian Maier (2013), was cowritten and codirected by Maloof. “Vivian Maier herself is unique as a photographer because of her personal story and the remarkable quality of her work. Seeing these prints will help viewers to step back into Maier’s time and place and to explore her perspective,” said Brenda Johnson, the library director and university librarian at the University of Chicago.

July 25, 2017

Condo Fair to Launch in Mexico City and Shanghai Next Year

Vanessa Carlos. Photo: Carlos/Ishikawa.

Condo, a program that enables galleries to play host to each other nationally and internationally, will launch editions in Mexico City and Shanghai next year, writes Naomi Rea of Artnet. Condo—created, according to organizers, as an alternative to the costs and pressures of the monolithic art-fair circuit—started in London last year as the brainchild of Vanessa Carlos (of the gallery Carlos/Ishikawa). It was so successful that it came to New York this summer (it closes at the end of this week). Of the first New York edition, Carlos said, “It had the same communal atmosphere as the London edition, which was important to me, and it definitely achieved the aim I have for Condo of demonstrating an alternate way of exhibiting abroad, of focusing of collaboration and of proposing a good way for audience members to encounter international artists and galleries.” Condo New York was organized by Carlos, Simone Subal (of Simone Subal Gallery), and Nicole Russo (of Chapter NY).