Baltimore Removes Confederate Statues Under Cover of Night

Workers removing one of four Confederate statues during the middle of the night in Baltimore yesterday. Photo: Alec MacGillis

Following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of four of the city’s Confederate monuments on Monday, which were carted away “quickly and quietly” last night, Nicholas Fandos and Russell Goldman of the New York Times report.

Pugh is the latest city official to relocate statues commemorating Confederate-era figures. The mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, also announced on Monday that two public works would be taken down. Other politicians from across the nation, including the mayors of Gainesville, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Louisville, Kentucky, also responded to the alt-right rally—organized as a protest of the removal of a monument of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park—by denouncing racism, bigotry, and intolerance, and by calling for a review of the public artworks in their cities.

“For me, the statues represented pain, and not only did I want to protect my city from any more of that pain, I also wanted to protect my city from any of the violence that was occurring around the nation,” Pugh said. “We don’t need that in Baltimore.”

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January 22, 2018

Heidi Rabben Appointed Curator of San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco announced today that Heidi Rabben, an independent curator and writer, has been named as the institution’s new curator. She will work with chief curator Renny Pritikin to organize exhibitions, manage artist commissions and special projects, and to foster institutional partnerships in the Bay Area and beyond.

In 2017, Rabben was the Banff International Curatorial Institute’s curator-in-residence at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, Canada. Previously, she served as director of programming for the San Francisco Art Book Fair, director and curator of events and exhibitions at KADIST, and as a curatorial fellow at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts.

“I am thrilled to welcome Heidi to the CJM,” executive director Lori Starr said. “She brings a great deal of experience, imagination, and knowledge of both the local Bay Area art scene and the national and international art worlds to the museum. Her passion for the Jewish experience will have a significant impact on the original exhibitions we develop that integrate Jewish inquiry with contemporary art, and her track record of creating collaborative programs also makes her the ideal choice for working with our national and international colleagues to bring special exhibitions to San Francisco that might otherwise never be seen here.”

January 22, 2018

NADA Launches Acquisition Fund for Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum of the Arts.

The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) announced today that it has established a new acquisition fund for the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The initiative will allow the museum’s curators to select works from the upcoming edition of the fair, taking place at Skylight Clarkson Square from March 8 to 11, for its permanent collection. NADA’s seventh iteration will feature one hundred exhibitors from eighteen countries, including Argentina, Australia, Finland, Japan, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Bronx Museum,” said NADA’s executive director Heather Hubbs.” “NADA was founded in New York, and we could not be more proud to have artwork from our exhibitors in such a venerable collection. This initiative reflects our continued commitment to providing our exhibitors with unique opportunities to connect directly with influential curators.”

January 22, 2018

Activists Reveal Emails Between British Museum and Russia

The British Museum.

Activists recently unfurled a thirty-six-foot tall banner in front of the British Museum to protest British Petroleum’s sponsorship of the museum, reports Hyperallergic. The banner visualized 2,727 oil spills caused in one year by Rosneft, a government oil company in Russia in which BP has almost a twenty-percent stake. The protest, held by the activist group BP Or Not BP?, marked the end of a BP-backed exhibition at the museum titled “Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia,” which BP Or Not BP? demonstrated against last December. Activist Helen Glynn told Hyperallergic that BP’s sponsorship of the museum “fits into a wider strategy of trying to rehabilitate the Russian government in the eyes of Western policymakers, in an effort to weaken the sanctions that prevent BP from getting its drills into the Russian Arctic.”

The activists called attention to recent revelations made public by Culture Unstained, an organization campaigning to end the fossil fuel industry’s funding of cultural institutions and the legitimacy conferred by such patronage. Rather than divulge unlawful activities, Culture Unstained’s documents offer transparency concerning the often secretive communication between cultural institutions, politicians, and energy corporations.

The group recently published emails between Russian and British officials, BP representatives, the State Hermitage Museum, and the British Museum. One chain of correspondence, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, revealed a private meeting arranged for British Museum director Hartwig Fischer, two BP employees, the chair of trustees, and Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK. Yakovenko would later praise BP at the aforementioned exhibition’s opening for “supporting the cultural and scientific ties between our two nations.” In 2016, the British Museum renewed its sponsorship agreement with BP, unlike the Tate, which severed its ties following increased public scrutiny.

January 22, 2018

Cultural Figures Protest Jeff Koons’s Memorial to Paris Terror Victims

Rendering of Jeff Koons's Bouquet of Tulips.

More than twenty French cultural figures have penned an open letter urging the city of Paris to scrap its plans to install a controversial Jeff Koons–designed memorial to commemorate victims of recent terror attacks. Published by the French newspaper Libération on Monday, January 22, the document calls the work by the American artist as “shocking,” and suggests that Koons has “ulterior motives.”

Titled Bouquet of Tulips, the statue would be one of Koons’s largest at 34-feet high and 27-feet wide. The piece, a hand holding a number of differently colored balloon-like flowers is a reference to the hand of the Statue of Liberty, which was gifted to the United States by France in 1886. While Koons intended the work to also be a gift, he only donated the idea for the memorial. To build the $4.3 million sculpture, the country had to find the funds elsewhere. The letter is critical of this, calling it “costly” for the state and the taxpayers. It also argues that the proposed location for the work, a plaza that is shared by the Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, is “opportunistic” and “cynical” since it is nowhere near, and has no connection to, the Stade de France, the Bataclan theater, and the various restaurants and cafés where the November 13, 2015 terror attacks took place.

January 22, 2018

Stolen Painting Returned after Failed Ransom Attempt

Emil Nolde, Christ to Emmaus, 1904.

Following a failed extortion attempt, police and prosecutors in Flensburg, Germany, announced that a painting by Emil Nolde that was stolen four years ago from a Danish church in Ølstrup, near Ringkøbing, Denmark, was returned, according to Monopol. Titled Christ to Emmaus, 1904, the work hung in the church from 1939 until it was stolen in 2014.

Two years later, in September 2016, the perpetrator had demanded approximately $160,000 for the piece. The Nolde Foundation Seebüll in Neukirchen, Germany, refused to pay the ransom. Instead, it contacted the district police and the prosecutor’s office in Flensburg, who launched an investigation. At first the police encountered difficultly because the alleged extorter used encrypted software to communicate with the foundation, but they were eventually led to a law firm that had ties to a prisoner who had assisted the thief from jail. The prosecution convinced the convict to help mediate the return of the painting, but his accomplice is still unknown.

Astrid Becker, deputy director of the foundation, said the recovery of the work was a cause for celebration. Danmarks Radio reported that the Ølstrup’s pastor, Inge-Dorthe Brønden Kaasgaard, was overjoyed by the news. The painting is a pivotal, early work by the artist and was commissioned for a Danish noble family.

January 22, 2018

Vandals Topple Public Sculpture in Athens, Claiming it Resembles Satan

Kostis Georgiou, Phylax.

Protestors have torn down a red, angel-shaped sculpture in southern Athens they claim looked like Satan, according to Reuters. The twenty-six-foot statue, made by Greek artist Kostis Georgiou and titled Phylax (Guardian), was displayed in the coastal district of Palaio Faliro in early December when it first drew the ire of critics, including religious fundamentalists and supporters of rightwing political groups. “If they want to demolish, let them do it,” Georgiou told Greek Reporter earlier this month, when demonstrators led by Patapios Argyros, a local priest, attempted to exorcise the sculpture. “If they want to burn it, let them burn it as they were burning books in the past,” the artist added.

On Wednesday, a group of hooded people dressed in black tied the structure to a truck and pulled the angel figure down, breaking its wings. Dionysis Hatzidakis, the mayor of Palaio Faliro, filed a lawsuit. “So, if we don’t like something we destroy it ... for political purposes?” he told Real FM. Argyros had penned an open letter to Faliro in early January declaring the artwork “an affront to Orthodoxy and the Christian faith.”

“All this violence against the sculpture since the first moment it was installed has left me speechless,” Georgiou told Reuters. “It should remain down on the ground as a memorial of the irrational rationale.”

January 22, 2018

Venice Biennale Announces Recipients of 2018 Lion Awards for Dance

Meg Stuart and Marlene Monteiro Freitas. Photo: the Venice Biennale.

The Venice Biennale has awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to American dancer and choreographer Meg Stuart and the Silver Lion to Cape Verdean dancer and choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas.

The Golden Lion will be presented on June 22, at the opening of the Twelfth International Festival of Contemporary Dance, for which Stuart and her company Damaged Goods will perform Built to Last, 2012—Stuart’s first work to engage with existing classical music. Freitas will receive the Silver Lion on June 28, and will present her most recent performance Bacchae—Prelude to a Purge with her company of twelve dancers and musicians. The work is a reinterpretation of the tragic myth of Euripides.

Past recipients of the Golden Lion include Merce Cunningham, Carolyn Carlson, William Forsythe, and Lucinda Childs. Among the past awardees of the Silver Lion are Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's Performing Arts Research and Training Studios, Michele Di Stefano, and Dana Michel.

January 22, 2018

Jill Magid Awarded $50,000 Calder Prize

Jill Magid.

American artist Jill Magid was awarded the seventh edition of the Calder Prize, a biannual $50,000 grant given to a living artist by the Calder Foundation, according to Artnews. Magid won the prize partly for a performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art last September that involved some of Alexander Calder’s mobiles and was incorporated in the museum’s exhibition “Calder: Hypermobility.” Past awardees of the Calder Prize include Darren Bader, Rachel Harrison, and Haroon Mirza, who won in 2015. In addition to a cash prize, Magid will also receive a residency at Calder’s house and studio in Roxbury, Connecticut, where the sculptor lived for several decades and first exhibited his outdoor works. Magid was born in 1973 less than thirty miles from the estate, in Bridgeport. 

In its announcement, the Calder Foundation drew parallels between Calder and Magid, whose conceptual, narrative-driven works often explore secretive institutions of power in intimate ways. “In his mobiles and stabiles, Calder unites symmetry and asymmetry, or parity and disparity, in ways that assimilate the larger, unseen forces at work in the natural world,” the foundation said in a statement. “Likewise, Magid pulls on loose ends both tangible and intangible—probing seemingly impenetrable systems—and finds unification in disparate elements. Her tenacity echoes Calder’s own in his radical transformation of sculpture.”

January 22, 2018

Smithsonian and Other Institutions Remain Open Despite Government Shutdown

Arts & Industries Building, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

The Smithsonian Museums and National Zoo in Washington, DC, as well as a several other federally-funded institutions, including the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan will remain open on Monday, January 22, despite the government shutdown, which is now in its third day.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the Smithsonian said that it would use the “funds available” from previous years to keep the museums open on Monday. While the museums may close if a budget cannot be agreed upon by the Senate, officials from the National Zoo assured the public that the animals would continue receiving excellent care during this time.

Among the highly-debated issues that are dividing members of the Senate are funding for immigrants affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), defense spending—which includes money for President Trump’s border wall—and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). While Democrats and Republicans are trading blame over the shutdown, which officially started Friday at midnight, thousands of federal employees are in limbo as they wait for Senators to come to an agreement. A vote over whether to continue funding the government for the next three weeks will take place at noon.