Pope.L to Bottle Contaminated Flint Water and Sell It in Detroit

Pope.L. Photo: Kickstarter

Chicago-based artist Pope.L, who recently won the 2017 Bucksbaum Award for his work in this year’s Whitney Biennial, is raising funds on Kickstarter for an interventionist installation and performance piece that calls attention to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. For Flint Water Project, the artist will purchase and bottle 150 gallons of polluted water from Flint residents. He will then sell the bottles as limited edition artworks in Detroit.

According to the campaign’s website, when Pope.L was commissioned to complete an artwork by the artist-run Detroit gallery What Pipeline, he said he did not want to re-victimize the city, and instead wanted to frame Detroit as a place that would aid another city in need. “Flint Water will call attention to the city’s continued plight while raising funds to support Flint’s citizens in their struggle,” the artist said.

Around nine hundred bottles will be produced before the artist’s exhibition opens at What Pipeline on September 7, and an additional three hundred bottles will be packaged and filled throughout the duration of the show, which runs until October 21.


November 22, 2017

Florida’s Harn Museum Director Rebecca M. Nagy to Step Down

Rebecca M. Nagy.

After fifteen years as director of the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art, Rebecca M. Nagy has announced that she will retire in the summer of 2018. Under her leadership, the museum more than doubled its permanent collection and completed several building expansions, including the addition of a new 18,000-square-foot contemporary art wing and a 26,000-square-foot wing for the exhibition, conservation, and study of Asian art.

“It has been an honor to lead the Harn through significant growth in what feels like a very short amount of time,” Nagy said. “My years here have provided challenges, rich rewards, and much joy and satisfaction. There are great things ahead for the Harn. I leave secure in the knowledge that my colleagues’ passion, energy and dedication to excellence will thrive under new leadership.”

Prior to her appointment as director of the Harn in 2002, Nagy spent seventeen years at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, where she concluded her tenure as associate director of education while also serving as curator of African art. From 1988 through 2002, she also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was awarded her doctorate in art history in 1983. Nagy is currently an editor at the scholarly journal African Arts, and serves as a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

November 22, 2017

Zurich’s Karma International Relocates

Marina Olsen and Karolina Dankow in their Zurich gallery Karma International. Photo: Flavio Karrer

The Swiss gallery Karma International has announced plans to move from Kunsthalle to the Kreis 3 neighborhood in Zurich. Its new space will open with a survey of Meret Oppenheim’s works on December 14. It is also currently organizing upcoming solo shows by Simone Fattal, and Alex Becerra—who previously exhibited work in the “Hot Mess” group show at Karma’s Los Angeles outpost.

Karma’s codirector, Marina Olsen told Artnews that she hopes the move will “change energies . . . to get new inspiration, for ourselves and for the artists.” Caruso St John Architects is retrofitting the space, which will be around the same size as the previous gallery.

November 22, 2017

Russian Culture Forum Supported by Putin Rekindles Talk over Artistic Freedoms

Vladimir Putin giving a speech at the St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum. Photo: Kremlin.

The St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum in Russia, which ran from November 16 to November 18 and was supported by President Vladimir Putin, has reignited debates about the country’s problematic relationship to artistic freedom, writes Sophia Kishkovsky of the Art Newspaper. Many are concerned about the spirit of the country’s cultural sphere, especially in light of Gogol Theater director Kirill Serebrennikov’s arrest after he was accused of embezzling government funds. Numerous factions wanted to boycott the event, while others said attending it in order to speak out in support of artistic freedom was the only “morally defensible” reason for taking part.

The forum opened with a speech by Putin at the Mariinsky Theater, where he spoke about “culture, art, and education” as a “response to the challenges of barbarity, intolerance, and aggressive radicalism.” He also met with a number of institutions and schools that worked with young people interested in the arts. Semyon Mikhailovsky, the rector of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, who also happens to be the commissioner of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, told Putin that his school guides hundreds of students from China—and some from the United States—in the ecclesiastical arts. Putin then asked if Mikhailovsky was “teaching them the right things,” imploring the rector to instruct his pupils in lessons that were “good and proper.”

Even people loyal to Putin are worried about the state of culture in Russia. The director of the State Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, told the BBC Russian Service that “one should not show a theater director in a cage.” Serebrennikov is behind bars in court, like any of the accused in Russia during a criminal trial. Serebrennikov has also spoken out publicly in favor of a Hermitage employee in charge of construction who is under arrest on corruption charges. The director said he completed projects efficiently, which is nearly impossible due to Russian bureaucracy. Putin had mentioned Serebrennikov and the Hermitage worker in an October Kremlin meeting, saying their arrests meant that the justice system is functioning well.

November 22, 2017

Artist Zanele Muholi Receives Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters

Zanele Muholi

South African photographer and self-described “visual activist” Zanele Muholi is the recipient of France’s Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters, one of the country’s highest honors, writes Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper.

Muholi is being recognized for her singular artistic contributions to French culture and the world. She has spent her life documenting South Africa’s LGBTQIA community. She is also a cofounder of the Forum of Empowerment of Women, and the creator of Inkanyiso, a stage for artistic and queer activism.

“We work hard to create content that scholars and the rest of the world are able to use to highlight the many challenges faced by the LGBT communities,” said Muholi to the South African newspaper the New Age. “We might not be on television and reported about widely, and when the reporting comes we are reported carelessly and haphazardly. For us, it is important to make sure that we unite the LGBT community so that people know we exist as professionals and as creators of great content.”

November 22, 2017

Curator of Queer Art Exhibition Called Before Brazil’s Senate

Curator Gaudêncio Fidelis.

Gaudêncio Fidelis, the curator of “Queermuseu”—an exhibition dedicated to queer art that was staged at Santander Cultural in Porto Alegre in Brazil earlier this year—has been ordered to appear in front of Brazil’s Senate on Thursday, November 23. Fidelis came under fire from right-wing groups who targeted the exhibition, claiming it promoted blasphemy, pedophilia, and child prostitution. Conservatives denounced the show and vandalized the building, which led Santander Cultural to close the show early.

According to Elisa Wouk Almino of Hyperallergic, since the exhibition was shut down, Fidelis has been under investigation for the “mistreatment of children and teenagers” due to his involvement with the show. Far-right critics of “Queermuseu” believe the exhibition “[perverts] the notion of the family.” One of the leaders of the Free Brazil Movement, a right-wing party that has been responsible for attacking cultural events across Brazil this past year, told The Guardian that a boycott of the show was initiated because the exhibition involved public money in the promotion of “bestiality, pedophilia, and offences to the Christian faith.”

Featuring eighty-five artists, including Lygia Clark, Cândido Portinari, José Leonilson, and 263 artworks, the show was the country’s largest-ever exhibition of queer art. Fidelis had not been consulted before Santander Cultural decided to close the show early, which prompted him to accuse the venue of shutting down public dialogue.

November 21, 2017

Photographer Sues Smithsonian and Artist Christo for Copyright Infringement

Gianfranco Gorgoni’s photograph documenting the installation of Running Fence. Photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni.

The artist Christo and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, are being sued by photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni for copyright infringement, writes Dan Duray of the Art Newspaper. Gorgoni claims he was not paid or correctly credited for his pictures of Christo’s Running Fence, a project by the artist and his wife, the late Jeanne-Claude, featuring an enormous fabric construction almost twenty-five miles long that ran through California’s Marin and Sonoma counties.

From 1972 until 1976, with Christo’s permission, the photographer documented numerous phases of the project, from start to finish, as “part of Gorgoni’s artistic practice of, in essence, making art by photographing art as it was being made by other artists,” according to the lawsuit. Christo, however, did not pay Gorgoni for his efforts. And Gorgoni never transferred the copyright for the images to the artist, which he says were created by him alone, sans Christo’s help. The photographer also states that he certified the ownership of his pictures in writing with Christo and Abrams (they were used for the 1978 book Christo: Running Fence, published by Abrams). Then, as alleged in the lawsuit, Christo “sold a series of materials to the Smithsonian related to Running Fence,” including “physical copies” of Gorgoni’s work. In the sale were also portraits Gorgoni took of the locals. And in 2010, a second book was published—with the Smithsonian—commemorating Running Fence, concurrent with an exhibition at the museum that year. Gorgoni says the show and additional book were created without his knowledge or approval. The lawsuit also states that the book for the Smithsonian’s show did not name the photographer as a member of the group that helped with Running Fence. “What Christo and the Smithsonian did was use Gorgoni’s images—works of art themselves—in a book, exhibition, and film without even telling him, much less asking his permission. That Gorgoni’s copyrights were publicly registered and acknowledged by Christo himself in a book that Christo designed (and which the Smithsonian owned) is egregious,” said John Cahill, Gorgoni’s lawyer.

Gorgoni is seeking out a jury trial and payment for damages of up to $150,000. But the artist is not especially interested in getting paid, says his lawyer. “Although Gorgoni has been forced to file a lawsuit seeking damages and injunctions, this has never been about money for him. It is truly a case of principle,” said Cahill.

November 21, 2017

Fire at Santander and Cantabria Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

Firefighters at the Santander and Cantabria Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Photo: @pjhernando

A fire broke out on the top floor of the Santander and Cantabria Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Spain, in the early morning hours of Monday, November 20. Firefighters arrived at the scene around 5:30 AM and were able to contain the blaze by 10 AM. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

None of the artworks in the museum’s holdings were harmed since, due to construction, the collection is being stored temporarily in the basement. Among the well-known pieces housed at the museum is Francisco de Goya’s 1814 portrait of King Fernando VII. While the damage at the museum is being assessed, the collection will be moved to another location to ensure its safety. The museum has been closed to the public since February and is currently undergoing a $690,000 renovation.

November 21, 2017

Oreet Ashery Wins Tenth Film London Jarman Award

Oreet Ashery. Courtesy: Goldsmiths University of London

The Film London Jarman Award has announnced that Oreet Ashery was named this year’s winner. The artist was recognized for her web series “Revisiting Genesis.” Commissioned by Stanley Picker Gallery, the work evaluates the relationship between technology and death. Ashery will receive a commission for Channel 4’s short film forum Random Acts and approximately $13,246 in prize money.

Ashery’s practice is often satirical, experimental, and collaborative. In her most recent work, Passing Through Metal, she merges death metal and knitting in a performance, and in her film Party for Freedom, a combination of live performance and music with moving image, she questions political polarities such as hippy liberalism and populism. Ashery has been featured in exhibitions held at London institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Freud Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Royal Opera House, and the Whitstable Biennale.

“Oreet Ashery is a fitting winner for the tenth Film London Jarman Award as her mercurial, ever-evolving work is nigh-on impossible to pigeonhole,” Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said. “She has spent her entire career pushing the boundaries of moving image as an art form, and it’s this questing restlessness of spirit that we set out to champion when the award was first established.”

November 21, 2017

Artistic Director of Documenta 14 Criticizes Handling of Exhibition’s Audit Report

Adam Szymczyk. Photo: Nils Klinger.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC—the professional services firm hired to complete an independent audit of Documenta 14 over its deficit of $8.3 million—the beleaguered quinquennial exhibition went over budget largely because of its additional site this year in Athens, writes Hili Perlson of Artnet. PwC reviewed the full report at a board meeting for the exhibition’s shareholders and parent company on November 15. It states that the show would have made a profit had Athens not been a part of the equation. Adam Szymczyk, the artistic director of Documenta 14, claims that PwC’s findings were not shared with him or Annette Kulenkampff, the CEO of documenta GmbH, and that he had to learn about the report through the media.

Szymczyk is upset over the way the meeting was orchestrated: “You can’t study and analyze a complex multipage document with financial details during the same meeting, you should debate it,” he wrote in an e-mail to Artnet. He also alleged that the board made up the controversy surrounding the exhibition, calling it a “controlled scandal” because Bertram Hilgen, the former mayor of Kassel (the city where the exhibition is held) and Documenta’s board chair, has been “constantly publicly attacked and defamed . . . without a clear and solid reason.”

Szymczyk also feels faulting Athens for the show’s problems is a matter of convenient scapegoating: “I think blaming ‘Athens’ for the trouble is an easy political excuse, opening the way to limiting the autonomy of any future documenta [exhibitions] through managerial ‘adjustments,’ thus undermining the fundamental premise of the project—its autonomy.”