Rendering of one piece in the multi-part Public Art Fund project “Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.”
Public Art Fund has announced that, starting next October, the largest public art exhibition by Ai Weiwei, titled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” and comprising ten large installations featuring fences and many smaller works, will be spread across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Officially opening on October 12 and running through February 11, 2018, the sites for the project include Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art at Astor Place in Manhattan, the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park, and the JCDecaux bus shelters in Brooklyn.
The Public Art Fund’s director and chief curator since 2009, Nicholas Baume, said of the exhibition: “This is the most ambitious that we’ve undertaken since I’ve been here.” The title of the show itself is a reference to a line in Robert Frost’s 1914 poem “Mending Wall,” which repeats throughout the piece. Ai has stated that this work is a reaction to “a retreat from the essential attitude of openness” in American politics. “When the Berlin Wall fell, there were eleven countries with border fences and walls,” he said. “By 2016, that number had increased to seventy. We are witnessing a rise in nationalism, an increase in the closure of borders, and an exclusionary attitude towards migrants and refugees, the victims of war and the casualties of globalization.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the upcoming show that it “serves as a reminder to all New Yorkers that although barriers may attempt to divide us, we must unite to make a meaningful impact in the larger community . . . New York City has long served as a gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants seeking better lives and has long benefited from their contributions and service in every neighborhood across the five boroughs. This expansive public art project that explores themes of freedom and the power of self-expression is a perfect symbol and reminder for all of us, especially in the current political climate.”
A recently created public initiative has launched a petition against the controversial design for the proposed Museum of the 20th Century (M20) in Berlin, 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 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 poling 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 in 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, more than 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.
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, a nonprofit organization also based in Atlanta and 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.
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 has “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.
Dignity Strike demand poster (left) and a second poster in Arabic (right). Photo: Decolonize This Place
The 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 has been spearheaded by artists, writers, and scholars who want to raise awareness about the prisoners’ denial of basic rights.
The more than fifteen hundred Palestinians participating in the hunger strike plan to continue with the action until the government declares that it will meet their thirteen demands, including improved medical care, increased family visits, and an end to detaining individuals who have not yet been charged.
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.
“There is no real justification for this strike,” Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan added. “Terrorists aren’t in prison to get good conditions. They’re there to be punished. A hunger strike shouldn’t change our behavior as the state toward the prisoners.”
Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian prisoner who spent the last fifteen years in an Israeli prison, wrote an op-ed published in the New York Times on April 16. Barghouti said that a hunger strike is the most peaceful form of resistance for prisoners who refuse to surrender to Israel’s “inhumane system.”
He wrote: “Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about two hundred Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions . . . There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.”
In response to the article and for his role in spearheading the strike, Barghouti has been placed in solitary confinement. Authorities are currently investigating whether his wife or his lawyers helped smuggle the essay out of prison.
Decolonize This Place is calling for daily submissions to bring attention to the plight of these prisoners. Its website states: “Their strike for dignity and freedom calls on all of us—including cultural workers—to amplify their struggle in confronting the tyranny of jailers. Today, we begin the work of supporting them through art and action in all forms.”
The A4 Art Museum, a private institution founded by the real estate development firm Luxelakes, just reopened its new building about two and a half 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 new building is almost 38,000 square feet and overlooks a man-made lake. An events hall, library, and children’s art center are scheduled to open next year, as is 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 open 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 two hundred thousand visitors a year. Sun expects more people will come to the new space.
The museum is doing what it can to increase its cultural scope. It has partnered with the Yokohama Museum of Art and the Kyoto Art Center to bring Japanese artists into Chengdu, in order to try to soften China’s problematic relationship with Japan. Japan’s style of public arts programming is also influencing the museum, as “a lot of public education [at Chinese art institutions] is very lazy or trendy,” said Li Jie, the A4’s assistant curator.
The National Galleries of Scotland (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 which will triple its amount of exhibition space.
In the wake of unrelenting terrorist attacks and in the spirit of international cooperation and education—especially in the face of growing extremist and right-wing sentiments across 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.
The initiative comes on the heels of France and the UAE’s launch of a new UNESCO-backed global heritage fund that aims to raise $100 million by 2019. Announced in March, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, or ALIPH, also the first letter in the Arabic alphabet, has already raised more than $75 million.