Kurt Schwitters’s Merz Barn Under Threat

Kurt Schwitters’s Merz Barn in England.

Amah-Rose Abrams reports in the Art Newspaper that Kurt Schwitters’s last remaining Merz Barn, located in the Lake District of northern England, may be sold on the open market after Arts Council England (ACE) rejected a funding application for the site for the fourth time. The artists Ian Hunter and Celia Larner, who run and maintain the site as the Littoral Arts Trust, believe it should be preserved and kept open to the public rather than sold, but they are struggling with its upkeep due to a lack of funds.

After three rejections by the ACE, Hunter and Larner were formally invited to apply for another round of funding by the former ACE president Sir Peter Bazalgette. They were also paid approximately $44,000 to take part in an independent study regarding future funding, 45% of which they had to match. The ACE has supported the project over the years with about $312,000 in disbursements so far. Other funding has been repeatedly rejected, though, since the only completed interior wall of the Merz Barn—Schwitters worked there with the intention of transforming the whole building into a work of art—was removed in 1958 and placed in the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne due to risk of damage at its original location.

In 2016, after the barn was severely damaged during a storm, Hunter launched an appeal and raised about $84,000 for repairs. Galerie Gmurzynska, which hosted a Schwitters exhibition last summer, donated about $32,000 to the cause at the request of the late architect Zaha Hadid, while the rest was donated by local foundations and other international donors. At that time, the Littoral Arts Trust had no funding and was supporting the project through artists’ pensions and proceeds from the sale of one of the trust’s founder’s homes. Hunter and Larner are looking to draw the public’s attention to the Merz Barn and highlight its value as a cultural site by keeping it permanently open to visitors. The site used to be open from 10 AM until 5 PM when staffed, and visitors could call ahead to ensure entry.


July 27, 2017

South Korea Sentences Six Former Officials for Blacklisting Artists

Kim Ki-choon, former chief of staff of ousted President Park Geun-hye, at the Seoul Central District Court on Thursday. Photo: Ahn Young-Joon

Six members of ousted president Park Geun-hye’s administration were sentenced to prison on Thursday for blacklisting thousands of artists due to their political beliefs, Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times reports. The revelation of the government’s blacklist in December 2016 caused widespread public outrage that contributed to Park’s impeachment.

While investigators have not disclosed the names of the cultural figures on the list, officials estimate that at least 10,000 people were denied access to government-funded programs because they were critical of Park’s leadership. The scandal has prompted hundreds of South Korean artists to sue the former leader and her aides and has spurred politicians to call for new legislation that will protect artists from discrimination and political oppression.

Convicted for abuse of power and perjury, Kim Ki-choon, Park’s former chief of staff, was given a three-year term for ordering members of the president’s staff and ministry of culture officials to draw up the blacklist and lie about its creation. Kim Jong-deok, the former culture minister, received a two-year sentence, and three other former top aides were sentenced to one and a half years each. Another former culture minister, Cho Yoon-sun, who was convicted of perjury for lying about her knowledge of the blacklist before the National Assembly, was given a suspended prison sentence and was released from jail.

July 27, 2017

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Receives Major Photography Gift

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Photo: Peter McCullough

In anticipation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s fiftieth anniversary, trustee and collection committee member Jack Guthman and his wife Sandra gave the institution fifty photographs by contemporary female artists.

A selection of works from the recent acquisition is currently on view in the exhibition “Woman with a Camera,” which will run until January 14, 2018. Featuring eighteen works by established artists such as Marina Abramovic, Laurie Simmons, and Carrie Mae Weems, and emerging artists such as Anne Collier, Xaviera Simmons, and Mickalene Thomas, the show examines the many ways women across different generations and backgrounds approach the topics of identity, politics, and history.

“Jack and Sandy are the ideal patrons, making gifts that strengthen the direction the museum is already heading, while providing a bold example for how to positively impact an institution,” chief curator Michael Darling said. The Guthmans’ first donated to the MCA in honor of its tenth anniversary. Their gift included major works by Jin Soo Kim, Sol Lewitt, and Glenn Ligon. Jack Guthman has been a MCA trustee since 1989. He also serves on the museum’s collection, executive, board governance, and nominating committees. Sandra Guthman is a longtime supporter of the MCA’s youth and education programming.

July 27, 2017

Twenty-Six-Year Legal Dispute over Nazi-Looted Klee Masterpiece Is Settled

Paul Klee, Swamp Legend, 1919. Photo: Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München

The longest-running German legal battle over Nazi-looted art has finally come to an end. On Wednesday, July 26, the city of Munich settled with the family of German art historians Sophie Lissitzky and Paul Küppers from whom a Paul Klee masterpiece was seized by the Nazis during World War II, Catherine Hickley of the New York Times reports.

“It’s a scandal that it has taken so long, and a disgrace that we had no alternative to going to court,” said Gunnar Schnabel, a lawyer for the heirs, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers.

City officials had argued that Klee’s Swamp Legend, 1919, belonged at Munich’s Lenbachhaus museum for decades, but finally succumbed to political pressure and agreed to reimburse the heirs of Sophie Lissitzky and Paul Küppers, who is believed to have acquired the painting directly from the artist, by paying them a sum equal to the piece’s market value.

July 27, 2017

Dina Bangdel (1963–2017)

Dina Bangdel. Photo: the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar

Asian art historian Dina Bangdel, who specialized in South Asian and Himalayan art, passed away in the United States on Tuesday, July 25, at the age of fifty-four. According to the Kathmandu Post, the scholar died of meningitis, which she contracted after undergoing surgery for sinusitis in March.

Bangdel was the director of the art history department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, which she originally joined as an assistant professor of art history in 2005. After earning tenure and a promotion to associate professor, Bangdel was appointed head of the program in 2012.

Her curatorial work often focused on the ritual performance and identity politics of Buddhist art in South Asia. She was also interested in issues of gender and identity in South Asian contemporary art and film. Among the numerous exhibitions Bangdel curated throughout her career are “Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2003), which was a finalist for the Alfred Barr Award for best exhibition catalogue; “Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam” at the Rubin Museum, New York (2010); and “Prakriti Speaks: Contemporary Nepali Art in Mumbai” (2011).

July 27, 2017

Katherine Brinson Named Guggenheim Museum’s First Daskalopoulos Curator, Contemporary Art

Katherine Brinson.

Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, announced today the establishment of a newly endowed curatorial position for contemporary art. Guggenheim curator Katherine Brinson, who joined the museum in 2005, will be the first Daskalopoulos Curator, Contemporary Art. The position has been created with the support of Dimitris Daskalopoulos, a vice president of the board of trustees and chairman of the collections council of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

“As an active board member, art collector, and patron, Dimitris Daskalopoulos is a preeminent advocate for the power of contemporary art to inspire and reflect creative forces in our society,” said Armstrong. “This generous gift to endow a position allows us to continue to advance a founding commitment of the Guggenheim to collect and exhibit the most thought-provoking and innovative art of our time.”

Brinson, who has previously organized exhibitions of work by artists including Anicka Yi, Doris Salcedo, Paul Chan, and Christopher Wool, is currently curating a mid-career survey of work by artist Danh Vo, which opens at the Guggenheim on February 9, 2018.

July 27, 2017

Arts Writers Rally Behind Village Voice’s Union

Cover of the Village Voice, October 26–November 1, 2016.

Arts journalists, writers, editors, and other cultural figures have signed an open letter addressed to Peter Barbey, the billionaire owner of the Village Voice, criticizing his leadership of the storied paper and accusing him of trying to weaken its historic union.

Since the last union contract expired on June 30, union members have been trying to negotiate new terms with the management team appointed by Barbey. Management, however, wants to make severe modifications to the contract, such as eliminating the paper’s diversity and affirmative-action commitments; terminating the union’s ability to bargain over healthcare (union members must accept whatever healthcare options management offers, without question); and reducing the amount of leave new parents can have.

Employees became quickly frustrated with management’s inflexible stance and their ignorance of the paper’s history. Over the years, the Village Voice has staunchly defended LGBTQ rights and was the first private company in the country to offer domestic/same-sex partner benefits in 1982. On June 21, union members peacefully protested outside the paper’s inaugural annual Voice Pride Awards gala—celebrating New York’s LGBTQ community—at the event space Capitale in the Bowery.

July 27, 2017

Opening of Menil Collection’s Drawing Institute Delayed

Rendering of the Johnston Marklee and Associates–designed Menil Drawing Institute, currently being built in Houston, Texas.

The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, has postponed the opening of its new drawing institute, which was originally scheduled for October 7, due to the need for additional construction work. As a result it has rescheduled previously announced exhibitions including, “The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns”; “Think of Them as Spaces: Brice Marden’s Drawings”; and “Roni Horn: When I Breathe, I Draw.”

“Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that we will need more time to complete the Menil Drawing Institute and the other exciting projects on our campus, such as the new public greenspaces, in a manner that meets our exacting standards,” director Rebecca Rabinow said. “Rather than rush to open the Menil Drawing Institute in early October, the trustees and I have decided to delay the festivities, to ensure that everything is perfect. We apologize for any inconvenience this change of date may cause, especially for those who have factored an early October celebration into their fall plans.”

Dedicated to the exhibition, conservation, and study of modern and contemporary drawings, the $40 million institute will be housed in a new 30,000-square-foot facility, designed by the Los Angeles–based firm Johnston Marklee and Associates.

July 26, 2017

Barry Till, Curator at Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Retires

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s longtime Asian arts curator Barry Till has announced he will step down after a thirty-six-year term. Till will be named as the gallery’s first curator emeritus when his retirement takes effect at the end of September.

“Barry is an internationally known and admired treasure in the field of Asian Art,” said director Jon Tupper. “Barry’s work and reputation have attracted donors, volunteers, and staff, including myself to the AGGV, he will be truly missed by all.”

The gallery’s first director, Colin Graham, wanted the AGGV to stand out from other institutions in western Canada and began acquiring Asian art. Graham originally hired Till as a part-time Asian arts curator in 1981. Since then, Till has grown the gallery’s holdings to more than 10,000 works, which make up 50 percent of its total collection. During his tenure, Till curated almost 200 exhibitions, twenty of which have travelled nationally or internationally.

July 26, 2017

Ei Arakawa’s Skulptur Projekte Münster Work Restored

Technicians repairing Ei Arakawa’s project, Harsh Citation, Harsh Pastoral, Harsh Münster. Photo: Sophia Trollmann

Organizers of the Skulptur Projekte Münster announced today that artist Ei Arakawa’s project Harsh Citation, Harsh Pastoral, Harsh Münster, which was targeted by thieves only one week after the decennial’s opening, has been repaired.

On June 17, one of the artist’s seven digital paintings, which consist of screened pixelated LED panels on hand-dyed fabric, was stolen. The works depict well-known pieces by other artists, such as Joan Mitchell, Gustave Courbet, and Amy Sillman, and there is an audio component to the ensemble as well. The perpetrators took the LED painting of a Jutta Koether work without causing the piece significant damage. According to the police, one of the installation’s glass vitrines was carefully opened and the power cords were severed in order to remove the work.

Ei Arakawa has since prepared a new LED panel. According to a statement issued by the exhibition, two technicians of the LWL-Museum für Kunstund Kultur installed the electronic screen into the deserted frame today and from now on the work will be on display for its regular hours, from Monday to Sunday, 10 AM to 8 PM, and on Friday, 10 AM to 10 PM.