National Academy of Art Members Rally Behind Dana Schutz

Dana Schutz’s Big Wave, 2016, currently on view in an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Photo: ICA, Boston

After the controversy over artist Dana Schutz’s Open Casket painting of Emmett Till followed her from the Whitney Biennial in New York to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Marina Abramović, Cindy Sherman, Ed Ruscha, and Dread Scott, as well as around seventy other members and members-elect of the National Academy of Art, penned an open letter in support of the artist and the ICA for staging a ten-year survey of her works.

The letter was written in response to protests by a group of local artists, activists, and community members in the Boston area who demanded that the ICA shut down the exhibition in their own letter dated July 25 and addressed to chief curator Eva Respini and her team. It reads: “Even though [Open Casket] will not be shown, even in its absence, backing its artist without accountability nor transparency about proceeds from the exhibition, the institution will be participating in condoning the co-opting of Black pain and showing the art world and beyond that people can co-opt sacred imagery rooted in oppression and face little consequence, contributing to and perpetuating centuries-old racist iconography that ultimately justifies state and socially sanctioned violence on Black people.”

The National Academy members condemned the idea of penalizing an artist over an artwork. The letter, which was released on August 3 and has been circulating via e-mail, states: “It is of the utmost importance to us that artists not perpetrate upon each other the same kind of intolerance and tyranny that we criticize in others. We support the ICA-Boston and its decision to exhibit the works of Dana Schutz, and to maintain programming that fosters conversations between people with different points of view, especially given our current political climate of intolerance.”

Open Casket first created waves in the art world when a small-scale protest took place in front of the painting, which depicts the disfigured corpse of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old African American boy who was brutally beaten and killed in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman in a store in 1955. The controversy escalated when artist Hannah Black wrote a letter, which was signed by dozens of artists and writers, urging the curators of the Biennial to take down the work and destroy it. The work has since sparked intense public debate about the representation of African Americans in art and the appropriation of black culture by non-black artists.


November 17, 2017

Memphis College of Art to Close Its Doors after Eighty-One Years

The Memphis College of Art.

The Memphis College of Art announced that it will permanently shut its doors in 2020. According to Shelby Black at Hyperallergic, it would take a $30 million donation in support of the institution’s endowment in order to save the school. Established in 1936, the college cited declining admissions and increasing debt as the reason for the closure.

MCA Interim President Laura Hines also believes the university’s lack of digital and design programing may have contributed to the decrease in applications. However, Hines is optimistic the arts scene in Memphis will rebound: “One can hope that something new and different will rise that will sustain the visual arts after the college’s closure.”

For the next three years, MCA plans to fund operations by selling its real estate holdings. The fate of its building, located in Overton Park, is uncertain. Alumni of MCA include Valerie Jaudon, Emily Jacir, and Blake Nelson Boy.

November 17, 2017

Cuauhtémoc Medina Named Chief Curator of 2018 Shanghai Biennale

Cuauhtémoc Medina.

The Shanghai Biennale has appointed Cuauhtémoc Medina, the chief curator of Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporanea in Mexico City, as the chief curator of its twelfth edition, opening at the state-run contemporary art institution the Power Station, on November 10, 2018. The exhibition also announced that Shi Hanato will be the biennial’s chief coordinator, and He Huanhuan will be its head of administrative affairs.

Previously, Medina curated the ninth iteration of Manifesta in Genk, Belgium, in 2012; served as curator of Teresa Margolles’s presentation for the Mexican Pavilion at the Fifty-Third Venice Biennale in 2009; and, was the first associate curator of Tate Modern’s Latin American collection from 2002 to 2008. He has been a member of the Institute of Aesthetic Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City since 1992, and became chief curator of UNAM’s University Museum of Contemporary Art in March 2013.

“Biennales are large-scale exhibitions that, beyond offering a certain perspective on the potential of art and culture today, inscribe a city and an event as a provisory and symbolic artistic world center,” Medina said in a statement. “That Shanghai hosts an exhibition of that kind is most appropriate for it provides a clear image of the current decentering of our cultural narratives and the significance that China and Asia have in the cultural and economic circuits of today.”


November 17, 2017

Clark Ashton and Michi Meko Win Fifth Artadia Atlanta Awards

Clark Ashton’s GOD Will Smack YOU DOWN, 2015, and Michi Meko’s The Antique Blacks, 2016. Photo: Artadia

Artadia has announced that Clark Ashton and Michi Meko are the winners of the 2017 Atlanta Artadia Awards. They will each receive a $10,000 unrestricted prize. This is Artadia’s fifth year celebrating artists who live in the greater Atlanta area.

“Both choices for this year’s Artadia awards in Atlanta support individuals who concern themselves with object-making, commentary, and the idiosyncrasies and cracks between the art world and the real world,” juror Teresa Bramlette Reeves, director of curatorial affairs at the Zuckerman Museum of Art in Georgia, said.

Artadia is a national non-profit organization that works to advance careers of visual artists by providing unrestricted, merit-based awards. Since 1999, Artadia has awarded over $3 million to more than three hundred artists in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

November 17, 2017

Sotheby’s $310.2 Million Postwar and Contemporary Art Sale Led by Francis Bacon Triptych

Francis Bacon, Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966. Photo: Sotheby’s

The Postwar and Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s on Thursday night raised $310.2 million, selling all but three of its seventy-two lots. With a 95.8 percent sell-through rate, the auction’s results landed between its low estimate of $250.4 million and its high estimate of $343.4 million.

The star of the night was a Francis Bacon triptych, Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966, which sold for $36.8 million, followed by Andy Warhol’s Mao, 1972, which sailed over its low estimate of $30 million, securing $32.4 million. Other highlights include Lynette Yiadom Boakye’s The Hours Behind You, 2011, which set a new record for the artist after it sold for $1.58 million, nearly four times its high estimate; Roy Lichtenstein’s Female Head, 1977, which netted $24.5 million; and a Laura Owens work, which shattered her previous auction record of $336,500, securing $1.75 million. The piece will be loaned to the Whiney Museum of American Art in New York for its current retrospective on the artist.

In an unconventional move, not unlike Christie’s decision to include an old-master work in its contemporary art evening sale on Wednesday—the rare Leonardo da Vinci painting that brought in $450.3 million, setting a new record for the highest amount ever paid for an artwork—the auction house included what it called “another great Italian export:” a racecar. The 2001 Ferrari was driven by Michael Schumacher who won the Monaco Grand Prix that same year. The car fetched $7.5 million, $2 million more than its estimate.

November 17, 2017

Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale Totals $113.9 Million

Peter Doig, Red House, 1995–96. Photo: Phillips

While the Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale may not have had a shot at beating Christie’s record-smashing $785.9 million haul Wednesday night—which it owed to a rare Leonardo da Vinci painting that sold for $450.3 million—the auction netted a solid $113.8 million, surpassing last year’s total of $111.2 million.

With a 96 percent sell through rate, the Thursday night sale started strong with Pablo Picasso’s work on paper Portrait de femme endormie III, 1946, sparking a bidding war that ended with the work selling for $9.3 million, nearly nine times its estimate.

Peter Doig’s Red House, 1995–96, led the sale, selling for $21.2 million, which was within its estimate of $18 million to $22 million. The collector who consigned the work had previously bought the piece at Christie’s London in October 2008 for only $3.17 million.

November 16, 2017

Patrick Nagatani (1945–2017)

Patrick Nagatani in an undated photograph. Photo: Patrick Nagatani

Patrick Nagatani, who contended with the nuclear legacy of the United States through his work as a photographer, died of colon cancer on October 27 at his home in New Mexico, Sam Roberts of the New York Times reports. Nagatani’s family members were among the Japanese-Americans who were interned by the United States during World War II. He was born in Chicago on August 19, 1945, shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima.

Originally from Hiroshima, Nagatani’s parents were held in separate detention camps in California after the US declared war on Japan in 1941. They met in an early-release program in Chicago, and eventually returned to California where Nagatani’s paternal family had a farm. In a 2007 video interview for the University of New Mexico—where Nagatani worked as a photography professor—he spoke of the impact interment had on his grandfather: “It broke him, it just broke his physical psychological being. My grandfather left the country and went back to Japan and died a drunk.” Nagatani later described his usage of explosions and pollution in his “Nuclear Enchantment” series as a reminder of the “spiritual poverty of the technical age.”

While Nagatani was never technically trained in photography, he was first encouraged to pick up a camera by a Santa Monica Community College instructor when he was thirty-one years old and has worked in the medium ever since. Previously, he had earned his MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he flushed out the ominous themes, including the history of atomic weapons and their capacity for destruction, that would thread his life’s work. After graduating he worked in Hollywood where he made special-effects models for films like Blade Runner and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A documentary about his life and legacy titled, Patrick Nagatani: Living in the Story, is to be released next year.

November 16, 2017

New York’s Metropolitan Museum Receives $80 Million Gift

Herbert and Florence Irving. Photo: Columbia University Medical Center

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced today that it has received a landmark gift of $80 million from trustee Florence Irving and her late husband, Herbert Irving. The bequest is the largest financial gift the museum has received in recent history. The funds will establish an unrestricted art acquisitions endowment fund as well as several endowment funds for the department of Asian art.

“The Irvings have been inspirational donors in building the museum’s collections and galleries of Asian art since 1987,” president and CEO Daniel H. Weiss said. “This additional gift is truly transformative for the Met, and will ensure that the legacy of scholarship, programming, and collection-building they have been so instrumental in building will continue to thrive.”

In recognition of the Irvings’ support over the last thirty years, the Met designated the Florence and Herbert Irving Asian Wing in 2004. In 2015, the couple donated their collection of more than 1,200 works of art to the museum’s department of Asian art, and in 2011, they endowed the position of the Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia, which is currently held by John Guy.

November 16, 2017

SITE Santa Fe Announces Curators and Theme of Its 2018 Edition

SITE Santa Fe. Photo: Kate Russell Photography Courtesy: SITE Santa Fe

The New Mexico biennial SITE Santa Fe announced that José Luis Blondet, curator of special projects at LACMA; Candice Hopkins, an independent curator; and Ruba Katrib, curator of MoMA PS1 in New York, have been appointed the curators of its upcoming exhibition.

Dedicated to the art of the Americas, the biennial invites artists to question notions of private property, displacement, belonging, and immigration. The theme was inspired by Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar’s 1946 short story “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over), which is about two siblings who are forced out of their long-cared-for ancestral home.

The Los Angeles–based artist Stephanie Taylor, who is known for her work exploring the relationship between sound and objects, has converted the exhibition’s press release into a song. Taylor will also transform SITE Santa Fe’s future announcements into musical melodies, which will all be performed the conclusion of the event, which will run from August 3, 2018 to January 6, 2019.

November 16, 2017

Zona Maco Names Tania Ragasol as Artistic Director and Marisol Barbosa as Managing Director

Tania Ragasol and Marisol Barbosa.

The Mexico City–based contemporary art fair Zona Maco has announced two new appointments: independent curator Tania Ragasol was made the organization’s new artistic director and Marisol Barbosa, the fair’s coordinator, has been promoted to managing director.

“Since the beginning of my career I have combined curatorship, editing, production and management across multidisciplinary projects,” Ragasol said. “I am enthusiastic about joining Zona Maco’s team because I know that my experience as artistic director will enrich my practice and will allow me to provide my experience and knowledge to a well-established project which is already consolidated but continues growing and contributing to the cultural scene of our country.”

Previously, Ragasol has served as content director at Catapulta, a social enterprise that works to empower potential young agents of change in Mexico; the manager of the visual arts programming for the British Council’s dual year of the United Kingdom and Mexico, “UKMX2015”; and director of the Mexico City contemporary art institution Casa Vecina. She succeeds Daniel Garza Usabiaga who stepped down after two years in the role.