Heirs of Jewish Collector Sue Madrid Museum for Return of Pissarro Painting

Camille Pissarro, Rue St.-Honore, Apres-Midi, Effet de Pluie (Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain), 1897, on display in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

On Monday, July 10, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals gave the green light to a lawsuit filed by the family of a Jewish woman who was forced to sell her artwork to the Nazis in 1939, the Associated Press reports. Two of Lily Cassirer’s great-grandchildren have been seeking the return of the Camille Pissarro canvas titled Rue Saint-Honoré, Aprčs-midi, Effet de Pluie (Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain), 1897, from Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum for more than a decade. They claim that Cassirer sold the work to a Nazi art appraiser for $360 before she fled Germany. The work’s estimated value is $40 million.

The painting, which depicts a Paris street, has been in the possession of the museum since 1993. The institution acquired the piece when it bought Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’s art collection for $338 million, which was well below the holdings’ worth of roughly $2 billion. Thyssen-Bornemisza himself purchased the Pissarro from a New York art dealer for $275,000 in 1976.

Commenting on the reversal of the 2015 dismissal of the suit, the family’s attorney, David Boies, said, “It sent a strong message that even public authorities cannot take possession in bad faith of stolen property and then somehow gain title to it simply over the passage of time.”


October 19, 2017

Paul Vogt (1926–2017)

Paul Vogt. Photo: the Museum Folkwang in Essen.

Paul Vogt, longtime director of the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany, died in Münster on October 1 at the age of ninety-one. The institution announced his passing on October 10.

Trained as an art historian, Vogt led Museum Folkwang from 1963 until 1988. During his tenure, Vogt worked to rebuild the museum’s collection, which had been purged of “degenerate art” by the Nazis. More than 1,400 artworks had been confiscated from the institution beginning in 1937. Vogt repurchased twenty paintings from the original collection of Folkwang founder Karl Ernst Osthof, including Paul Cézanne’s Steinbruch Bibémus (Bibémus Quarry)
, ca. 1885, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Tanzpaar (Couple), 1914.

Under Vogt’s leadership, the institution also established a photography department, and greatly expanded its permanent collection by adding works by American artists such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and Franz Kline, along with modern and contemporary European pieces by Yves Klein, Gerhard Richter, Lucio Fontana, and the founders of the Zero group: Günter Uecker, Otto Piene, and Heinz Mack. Vogt was focused on restoring the museum’s reputation as the renowned contemporary art institution that prompted Paul J. Sachs, the cofounder of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, to call it “the most beautiful museum in the world.”

October 19, 2017

Portland Museum of Art Announces Artists Participating in 2018 Biennial

Portland Museum of Art in Maine.

Maine’s Portland Museum of Art has announced the participating artists for its 2018 biennial, which opens on January 26, 2018. Among those exhibiting works are painter Anne Buckwalter, photographer Rosamond Purcell, mixed-media artists Gina Adams and David Minter, and canoe-maker David Moses Bridges. All artists live in Maine or have ties to the state.

“Rather than put together a ‘greatest hits’ exhibition,” said independent curator Nat May, “we wanted to use the opportunity of the Biennial to focus on artists who hadn’t previously participated in PMA Biennials or other programming at this institution. To show work in a museum can be an important step for an artist, and to present work to a museum audience can invite a unique opportunity for dialogue and exchange in our varied cultural community.”

The complete artist list is as follows:

October 19, 2017

Pyotr Pavlensky Charged for Paris Bank Fire

Pyotr Pavlensky in front of the Bank in France in Paris. Photo: Twitter @capucinema

Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky, and his partner, Oksana Shalygina, were charged with destruction of property after he set fire to the façade of the Bank of France branch located in Place de la Bastille in Paris on Monday, Anna Codrea-Rado of the New York Times reports.

The thirty-three-year-old artist was first sent to a psychiatric unit, but was then placed in pre-trial detention on Wednesday. Pavlensky and Shalygina have been living in France since they were given political asylum there in May. They originally fled Russia after they were accused of rape by a well-known actress in January. Pavlensky has since claimed that the allegations are false and were politically motivated.

Photos of Pavlensky standing in front of the building while it was ablaze circulated on social media Monday. Activist Inna Shevchenko posted the following quote by the artist on her Twitter account: “The Bastille was destroyed by a people in revolution; the people destroyed its symbol of despotism and power. The Banque de France has taken the place of the Bastille, and bankers have taken the place of monarchs.”

October 19, 2017

Former Christie’s Contemporary Director to Open Upper East Side Gallery

A rendering of Mignoni Gallery in New York. Photo: Mignoni Gallery

Fernando Mignoni, a former head of the postwar and contemporary art department at Christie’s London auction house, will open a gallery on New York’s Upper East Side on October 31, Nate Freeman of Artnews reports. Located on the second floor of 960 Madison Avenue, Mignoni Gallery’s inaugural show will feature works by Donald Judd.

After working at Christie’s for about a decade, Mignoni left to join a gallery owned by his mother Elvira Gonzáles. He served as director of secondary market sales at Galería Elvira González in Madrid for ten years. Mignoni will also run an art advisory service out of the new gallery.

October 18, 2017

Chinatown Art Brigade Protests Omer Fast Exhibition at James Cohan Gallery

View of “Omer Fast: August,” 2017. Installation view, James Cohan Gallery, New York.

A group of artists and activists known as the Chinatown Art Brigade—established in 2015 by Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong, and Betty Yu—have called out what they perceive to be racism in the current exhibition at James Cohan Gallery’s Chinatown location in New York.

The show is an installation by the Berlin-based artist Omer Fast that includes video and film, including a 2016 work inspired by the life and work of German photographer August Sander. The gallery’s press release notes that the exhibition features a change in the facade and interiors of the gallery to resemble “what they were like before gentrification: the waiting room of a Chinatown business with an eclectic aesthetic.” The gallery goes on to note that the installation is meant to address the following: “In a very tense political climate, this ambiguous gesture represents a futile attempt to roll back the clock and speak about community, citizenship, and identity.”

CAB criticized the exhibition in an open letter to the gallery. It stated: “Not only does this guise have little to no bearing on the actual works being shown, the choice of visual signifiers is a racist aggression towards the community of Chinatown that James Cohan Gallery is currently gentrifying.”

It also addresses the artist’s practice in the context of Chinatown: “As a gallery representing the non U.S., non New York based artist Omer Fast, it is reprehensible that you see fit to support this exploration of ‘temporal space’ while contributing to the displacement of low income tenants and business owners in Chinatown. The artist may be heavily invested in ideas of ambivalence, ambiguity, and the theatrics of performing authenticity, but let it be known that there is no ambiguity in the critical conditions residents here are facing today.” The writers close their statement with the hashtags #RacistGallery and #JamesCohan #ShutItDown. Their letter, issued on October 2, is available in full here.

On Sunday, October 15, dozens of protesters gathered at the gallery. According to DNAinfo, CAB’s Betty Yu read the letter aloud through a megaphone inside the gallery, while attendees held signs that read: “Racist art has no business here!” and “Racism Disguised as Art.”

In response to the controversy, James Cohan Gallery made the following statement, “Omer Fast’s work provides an intentionally-uncomfortable look inward—both at himself, an immigrant to the US, and at the Gallery, a new arrival to an established neighborhood. That this work would generate such a variety of strong reactions — positive and negative, reinforces the paradox it is trying to capture. We not only take these expressions seriously, we’ve tried to honor them. People are free to draw their own conclusions about art, but they should also be given the opportunity to do so—without censorship, barriers or intimidation.”

In a statement issued by the artist, Fast said, “I’m not surprised there have been critical reactions. I completely understand people’s need to push back. . . .But I am surprised and distressed by the vitriol and name-calling. A group of protestors hanged [sic] a large poster outside the show, which accuses the gallery of representing ‘a non-US and non-New York artist.’ I expect this sort of characterization from right-wing trolls carrying tiki-torches and howling for walls to be built. I don’t expect it from left-wing activists in lower Manhattan.”

The artist’s full statement can be read here:

October 18, 2017

Hayward Gallery Appoints Vincent Honoré and Cliff Lauson as Senior Curators

Vincent Honoré and Cliff Lauson.

Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre in London has named Vincent Honoré and Cliff Lauson senior curators. Honoré will take up the post in December. Lauson, who first joined the gallery as curator in 2009, will assume his responsibilities in November. The two new positions were created after chief curator Stephanie Rosenthal stepped down last March to join the Martin-Gropius-Bau, a museum in Berlin, as director in February 2018.

Honoré is a London-based curator who has served as chief curator at the David Roberts Art Foundation since it opened in 2007. During his tenure there, Honoré curated solo shows with artists such as Fiona Banner, Huma Bhabha, and Rosemarie Trockel. He was also recently selected as the new artistic director for the thirteenth Baltic Triennial, which will kick off in May 2018. Since he joined Hayward Gallery, Lauson has curated solo exhibitions for artists such as Martin Creed, Ernesto Neto, Tracey Emin, and David Shrigley. He was previously assistant curator at Tate Modern, and he currently serves on the British Council Collection Acquisitions Advisory Group.

Following a two-year refurbishment, the gallery is preparing to reopen with an exhibition of works by Andreas Gursky on January 25, 2018.


October 18, 2017

Spanish Court Orders Woman Who Claimed To Be Salvador Dalí’s Daughter to Pay for Exhumation

Pilar Abel.

Following a dispute over the estate of Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, a Spanish court has ordered a woman who had previously claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of the artist to pay for the exhumation of his body, AFP reports.

A judge in Madrid had ruled that Dalí’s remains needed to be exhumed after Pilar Abel, a tarot card reader who alleged that the artist had an affair with her mother Antonia Martínez de Haro in Port Lligat, Spain, filed a lawsuit against the Spanish state and the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation. Gala said that Haro worked as a maid in Port Lligat, Spain, the small fishing village where Dalí and his wife Gala lived at the time. She claims she took legal action in order to be officially recognized as his offspring.

On July 20, a stone slab was removed from the artist’s tomb in the Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres, which the artist founded in 1983. After collecting samples of his DNA, a paternity test was conducted by the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences and the results determined that Dalí is not Abel’s biological father.

October 18, 2017

Metropolitan Museum Names Lauren A. Meserve Senior Vice President

Lauren A. Meserve.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced today that Lauren A. Meserve, currently the chief investment officer, has been appointed its new senior vice president. She will succeed Suzanne Brenner, who is leaving the institution after an eighteen-year tenure to join the private bank Brown Brothers Harriman.

Meserve began working on the Met’s investment team in 2002. She was named chief investment officer alongside Brenner in 2014 and will continue to oversee the management of the museum’s $3.1 billion investment portfolio, including asset allocation, investment manager selection, and risk management.

“Lauren has been successfully managing the museum’s investment efforts together with Suzanne Brenner for many years,” said president and CEO Daniel H. Weiss. “And within that time the museum’s endowment has performed extremely well, consistently seeing returns in the top quartile. I have no doubt that Lauren will continue to maintain the museum’s exceptional standards for its investments.”

October 18, 2017

Doug Aitken Receives Inaugural $100,000 Frontier Art Prize

Doug Aitken. Photo: Graeme Mitchell/Redux /LIAF.

Artist Doug Aitken has received the inaugural $100,000 Frontier Art Prize, presented through Le Laboratoire and the VIA Art Fund. The artist will be honored for his award on October 18 at the Picasso Museum in Paris, in conjunction with the opening of the FIAC art fair. He will also take part in the first World Frontiers Forum, which will be held this year at Le Laboratoire in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from October 1 to October 3.

The prize “recognizes artistic expression to critically question the way we live and think, now and in the future, at the creative crossroads of art and science; and biology, ecology, chemistry, architecture, food, communications, transportation, medicine, biotechnology, design, space exploration, artificial intelligence and physics,” according to the sponsors of the prize. Bridgitt Evans, the VIA Art Fund president and founder, said, “As an artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken epitomizes the radical, pioneering spirit that we hope to celebrate with this award. Doug’s ambitious artistic endeavors encourage us to imagine the future while simultaneously slowing us down to critically rethink our present.”

For a 2006 Critics’ Pick of the artist’s show at the Aspen Art Museum, Catherine Taft said of Aitken’s conspiracy, 1998, “a sequential work formed by four aerial shots [depicting] a tight circle of figures set against a white void,” that “this simple, quiet cycle documents a Situationist-inspired icebreaker that Aitken orchestrated in an Alps snowfield in order to reconnect a group of estranged French art students. By intentionally withholding such subplot or backstory, Aitken shrewdly thwarts not only narrative but also weighty conceptualism.”