Theaster Gates Wins 2018 Nasher Prize

Theaster Gates. Photo: The Nasher Sculpture Center

The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas announced today that American artist Theaster Gates has been awarded its 2018 Nasher Prize. In its third year, the prize recognizes living artists who elevate the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities. Gates will receive $100,000 and will be presented with an award designed by Renzo Piano, the architect of the Nasher Sculpture Center, at a ceremony in Dallas on April 7, 2018.

“Sculpture is a way to move between materials—to fight with materials,” Gates said. “This movement between materials and modes of making is what I want to spend my time doing. My work’s aim is to pay attention to a thing that has not had attention paid to it in a long time.” In Artforum’s October 2013 issue, Huey Copeland wrote that Gates “can be said to work with and against a particular admixture of aesthetics, theories, contexts, and attitudes: white guilt, the archival turn, DIY aesthetics, the uplift impulse, parafiction, actor-network theory, and, perhaps unavoidably, privatization and the concomitant proliferation of nonprofits and NGOs.”

The prize’s jury comprised Phyllida Barlow, artist; Huma Bhabha, artist; Pablo León de la Barra, Guggenheim curator at large, Latin America; Lynne Cooke, senior curator, National Gallery of Art; Okwui Enwezor, director, Haus der Kunst; Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Hou Hanru, artistic director, MAXXI, Rome; Alexander Potts, art historian; and Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council England.

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November 20, 2017

Artist Organizing Alternative Havana Biennial Released on Bail

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. Photo: Orlando García García

Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was released from police custody on Thursday, November 10, after he paid $1,000 bail, Cubanet reports. He was accused of illegally receiving construction materials, including bags of cement and sand, at his home in Old Havana. The date of his upcoming trial has yet to be determined.

Otero Alcántara was arrested by authorities on November 6, only a few hours before he was expected to hold a press conference on the alternative Havana biennial, which he began organizing after the thirteenth edition of the state-sponsored Bienal de la Habana was canceled due to a lack of funds because of Hurricane Irma. His partner Yanelys Nuñez Leyva had also been detained but was released a few hours later.

An online petition demanding that the artist be freed immediately was launched by Tania Bruguera on November 8. Signed by nearly five hundred people, the document alleged that the Cuban government has a history of shutting down cultural events that benefit locals while ensuring that venues popular with foreign tourists remain open.

After the artist was transferred to Vivac penitentiary center, located on the outskirts of Havana, he was subjected to a series of interrogations. He also said that he was not allowed to make a phone call and was not provided with basic hygenic supplies such as toothpaste and soap.

In a statement published by Havana Times, Yanelis Nuñz Leyva thanked everyone who participated in the campaign that fought for Otero Alcántara’s release and stated that they were committed to planning the alternative biennial, which is slated to open in May 2018.

November 20, 2017

Performa Names Kemang Wa Lehulere as 2017 Malcolm McLaren Award Winner

Kemang Wa Lehulere, I Cut My Skin to Liberate the Splinter, 2017. Photo: Paula Court

Performa, the New York–based performance art biennial, announced that artist Kemang Wa Lehulere has won the fourth edition of the Malcolm McLaren Award. Presented last night at the conclusion of Performa 17, the prize recognizes artists who stage “an innovative and thought-provoking performance” during the course of the exhibition. South African vocalist Vuyo Sotashe accepted the award on the artist’s behalf.

“Performa 17 has been an utterly exhilarating biennial,” founder and chief curator RoseLee Goldberg said. Every work has been a powerful call to activism through the most visually dazzling means, showing us how artists use their extraordinary talent as probes to consciousness. We are all better human beings for the work that we have experienced.”

The award was established in 2011 to honor its namesake, Malcolm McLaren. Wa Lehulere received the prize for his work I Cut My Skin to Liberate the Splinter, 2017. Performed at the Connelly Theater, the piece comprised found objects, which served as musical instruments that performers played while acting out movements from children’s games. It also included a song composed by the artist. Past recipients of the award include Ragnar Kjartansson, Ryan McNamara, and Edgar Arceneaux.

November 20, 2017

Activists Decry Ban on LGBTI Events in Istanbul

Participants in the March Against Homophobia and Transphobia organized by Kaos GL on March 20, 2012, Ankara.

A week after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described empowering gay people as being “against the values of our nation,” Kareem Shaheen reports in the Guardian that human rights groups are condemning a ban on LGBTI events in the Turkish capital as illegal and discriminatory. The Ankara governor’s office released a statement yesterday which declared it was imposing a ban on all LGBTI cultural events until further notice, citing threats to “public order” and the fear of “provoking reactions within certain segments of society.” The scope of the restriction extends to films, plays, exhibitions, panels, and other events in an effort to protect “public order and public health and morals.” The office’s announcement comes just days after the government also prevented a festival on German-language gay films from taking place in the city. 

This prohibitive measure is only the latest development in a series of attempts by the president’s Justice and Development (AK) party to curtail the activities of Turkey’s LGBTI rights movement. The annual Istanbul gay pride parade was canceled for the third year in a row this year, on security grounds, and last week Erdoğan condemned his main political opposition bloc, the Republican People’s party (CHP), for a plan that would supposedly introduce a “gay quota” for employees in a local municipality.

“There can be no legitimate or legal grounds for such a wholesale ban that touches the core of rights,” said Pembe Hayat and Kaos GL, two Ankara-based LGBTI organizations, in a statement following the announcement of the measure, adding that the general and open-ended nature of the ban risks “criminalizing LGBTI existence.” Their statement went on to add: “With this announcement the civil administration is endangering public safety by turning LGBTIs and civil society organizations, who are an important part of the public, into targets instead of fulfilling its duty to ensure public security.”

November 20, 2017

Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation Relocates and Names New Managing Director

The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris.

The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris is relocating from the Montparnasse district to a larger space in the Marais, and has appointed François Hébel as its managing director, according to a report by Anna Sansom in the Art Newspaper. Agnès Sire, the director of the foundation since 2004, now focuses on the organization’s artistic direction and curating exhibitions. Hébel will join the foundation this month. His past accomplishments include serving as the director of Magnum Photos in Paris and, most recently, he was the director of Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival and the director of Foto/Industria, the Italian photography fair in Bologna.

The foundation’s new space on Rue des Archives, not far from the Centre Pompidou and the Musée National Picasso, is due to open next October. The nearly 3,000-square-foot building is a converted garage and has more floor space than the institution’s previous digs, enabling the foundation to create a larger space for research and double their number of annual exhibitions from three to six. In addition to hosting exhibitions of photographer Cartier-Bresson’s work, the space will also present contemporary photographers. The first show at the Marais location will focus on Martine Franck, the Belgian documentary photographer who cofounded the foundation.

November 20, 2017

Dallas Museum Curator Resigns Following Allegations of Inappropriate Behavior

Gavin Delahunty.

Gavin Delahunty, the senior curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Art, resigned on Saturday, November 18, citing accusations of “inappropriate behavior.” In a statement released by the museum, Delahunty said: “Today I am announcing my resignation as the Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, effective immediately. I am aware of allegations regarding my inappropriate behavior, and I do not want them to be a distraction to the Museum or to my colleagues. I offer my deepest apologies to those who have been affected by my behavior. I will be taking this time to spend with my family.”

Commenting on Delahunty and his abrupt departure, former museum director Maxwell Anderson, who led the institution from 2012 to 2015, told Dallas News that, “Gavin elevated the DMA’s stature in the art world considerably, and his departure will be a great loss. But in the end it’s how we live our lives that matters most, and he now has to address that.”

Before Delahunty joined the museum in 2014, he served as the head of exhibitions and displays at Tate Liverpool from 2010 to 2014. During his tenure at the Dallas museum, Delahunty spearheaded the exhibition “Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots” (2015–16) and organized “Truth: 24 Frames Per Second,” which is currently on view until January 28, 2018. 

November 20, 2017

Founder of Brazil’s Inhotim Institute Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison

Bernardo de Mello Paz. Photo: Folha de São Paulo

Bernardo de Mello Paz, the businessman who established the Inhotim Institute in Rio de Janeiro—the largest outdoor art museum in Latin America—received a prison sentence of nine years and three months for money laundering, reports Amanda Nogueira for the Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de São P_a_ulo. The contemporary art collector’s sister, Maria Virgínia de Mello Paz, was also found guilty of the crime and was given five years and three months under house arrest.

While federal judge Camila Franco e Silva Velano determined the sentences in September, the prosecutor’s office only made the ruling public on Thursday, November 16. Paz and his sister had allegedly illegally transferred funds from the overseas account of Horizontes Ltda, which managed at least $95 million in donations made to the Inhotim Institute, to a number of the businesses that made up his conglomerate Itaminas, comprising twenty-nine mine and steel companies, in 2007 and 2008.

Paz then sold the conglomerate, which was allegedly around $400 million in debt, to a Chinese company in 2010. Marcelo Leonardo, the attorney representing the Paz family, who called the court’s ruling “unfair,” has already filed an appeal.

November 19, 2017

Flawless Sabrina (1939–2017)

Diane Arbus, Photo of Flawless Miss Sabrina at Home, 1968.

Activist, actress, drag legend, and psychic Flawless Sabrina, also known as Jack Doroshow, “flew away to be with her angels” on November 18, according to artist Zackary Drucker. Sabrina was seventy-eight years old when she died.

She was a central figure of the New York queer community. From 1959 to 1969, Sabrina organized a series of drag pageants throughout the United States. Frank Simon’s documentary, The Queen (1968), captures her in the midst of one of these events, handling broken hearts and explosive tempers with the grace and aplomb of the chicest mother superior.

And indeed, Sabrina was a superior Mother—a hard-earned honorific—as she was a guide and mentor to countless queer youths for decades, including Drucker. The artist, along with Rhys Ernst, had her in their 2012 film She Gone Rogue, which was featured at the Whitney Biennial in 2014. Drucker and Ernst also arranged for Sabrina to give tarot readings from her Upper East Side sanctuary for the exhibition. (And Drucker, along with writer Diana Tourjée, helped cofound the Flawless Sabrina Archive, a source that “will be used to incite intergenerational discourse for the benefit of current movements in the arts and politics,” as the Flawless Sabrina website states.)

Sabrina was famous for many things, perhaps most of all her generosity, good humor, and warmth. Artforum’s Rhonda Lieberman paid her a visit during the biennial for a tarot reading. In a Diary entry for artforum.com, Lieberman said: “It was a lovefest as soon as I was ushered in by her attentive (thirtysomething?) boyfriend Curtis, who was heating up lunch, and within two minutes I wanted Sabrina to adopt me. ‘You’re a child!’ She held out her arms for a hug—and I loved the reading already—and the beneficent lighting. She sported the aforementioned psychedelic leggings, layered shirts, a metallic streak of gold on her scarf, and a fedora over her un-bewigged head. She looked frail, feisty, and focused. It was clear this was a warm person determined to leave me feeling good about myself: I'll take it!”

November 19, 2017

Azzedine Alaïa (1935–2017)

Azzedine Alaïa. Photo: Alexandre Guirkinger.

The fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa has died, according to a report from Vanessa Friedman in the New York Times, based on an announcement from the French Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion. Born in 1940 in Tunisia and raised on a wheat farm outside the city of Tunis, Alaïa was first exposed to art and design by a midwife that helped many members of his family give birth and who later registered him at the School of Fine Arts in Tunis, the designer said, “against my father’s will.”

Around the same time, he found a job in a small dress shop and met two wealthy girls whose cousin wore Christian Dior and Balmain dresses; it was through her that he found work with a dressmaker who made copies of Balmain clothing. A friend of the cousin served as the connection that eventually led Alaïa to Paris in 1957, where he worked for Christian Dior. After opening his own maison in 1979, Alaïa introduced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980. His signature, tightly clung leather and knits earned him the moniker “king of cling.” The label’s designs were highly sought after throughout the 1980s and continue to be so to this day.

In 2007, Compagnie Financière Richemont bought a majority stake in the business, which allowed it to expand at its own pace. His label returned to the haute couture calender this past July, after a six year absence. Alaïa also worked in other realms off the fashion calender though, creating work for the ballet and operas and also putting on art exhibitions since 2004 in the space that houses his showroom. The designer’s own work was the subject of an exhibition at the Musée Galliera in 2013, which Christina Catherine Martinez wrote a Critics’ Pick on for artforum.com.

November 17, 2017

LGBT Archive to Open in Paris

Still from Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats per Minute, 2017.

In 2020, Paris’s city council intends to open an LGBT archive. It will chronicle queer culture in France from the 1960s until today. Recent acclaim for Robin Campillo’s film 120 Beats per Minute, which dramatizes the importance of the French AIDS activist group Act Up in the 1990s, has given new incentive to create the collection. Earlier this year, the work won the Grand Prix at Cannes.

Former mayor Bertrand Delanoë had attempted to open an archive twenty years ago, but it failed after disputes with LGBT organizations. Anne Sansom of the Art Newspaper reports that Bruno Julliard, who works as the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of culture, said: “The film's critical and public success has enabled us to accelerate the process, which has dragged on for fifteen years.”

Preparation is still in a preliminary stage, but the city plans to collect materials such as magazines and posters and have an exhibition space that will be accessible to researchers. The archive will also serve as a community gathering space with several meeting rooms. Additionally, Julliard mentioned that there is potential to partner with museums or other art institutions, to highlight the work of queer artists.