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 a $1,000 bail fee, 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 as a result of Hurricane Irma. His partner Yanelys Nuñez Leyva had also been detained but was released after a few hours.

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.

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December 14, 2017

Stedelijk Museum Teams Up with Rem Koolhaas to Rehang Its Permanent Collection

Installation view of Stedelijk Base, the Stedelijk Museum’s new presentation of its permanent collection. Courtesy: the Stedelijk Museum.

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam revealed today a major rehang of its collection of modern and contemporary art. The institution partnered with AMO architect Rem Koolhaas, who says the Stedelijk shaped his sense of aesthetics, and exhibition designer Federico Martelli to reconfigure its presentation of about seven hundred works by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Roy Lichtenstein, Gerrit Rietveld, Ed van der Elsken, Marlene Dumas, and Yayoi Kusama.

Dubbed Stedelijk Base, the arrangement of the works incorporates new architectural elements. One-hundred-and-eighty tons of steel were used to create thin freestanding walls, which are positioned to help create thematic zones of related artworks. Commenting on the layout, Koolhaas, who has visited the museum since he was twelve, said, “We did not want to create a rigid circuit for visitors. They’ll have the freedom to explore in different directions, and choose their own route, as adventurous as circulation through any city.”

Margriet Schavemaker, the head of collections and research at the Stedelijk Museum—who was jointly responsible for the selection of works and their presentation—said, “Stedelijk Base is our way of making the collection relevant today, in the twenty-first century. The presentation is crammed with surprising connections and associations, and also offers a clear chronology. This way visitors will always know which period of art history they have entered.”

December 14, 2017

K11 Art Foundation to Expand to Nine Cities in China by 2023

Adrian Cheng. Courtesy: K11 Foundation.

The K11 Art Foundation in Hong Kong has announced that the organization plans to expand to nine Chinese cities by 2023. Founded by Adrian Cheng in 2010, the nonprofit helps emerging artists and curators in greater China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan by connecting them with the global art community.

The foundation also announced that Cheng, who remains its honorary chairman, has been awarded France’s Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters for his efforts toward improving cultural exchange between France and China. Cheng is the youngest person in Hong Kong to receive this award since its creation in 1957. Nan Goldin, Anish Kapoor, and Iwona Blazwick, among others, are past recipients of the award.

“The cultural collaborations formed by the K11 Art Foundation with leading institutions such as Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo, and Claude Monet Foundation have allowed French audiences to deepen their understanding of contemporary Chinese art and to expand international opportunities for outstanding Chinese contemporary artists and curators,” Cheng said in a statement.

December 14, 2017

Minneapolis Institute of Art to Establish Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts

The Minneapolis Institute of Art. Courtesy: the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) announced today that it is launching the first-ever Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts within an art museum. The institution will collaborate with scholars, philosophers, artists, and colleagues at other museums to explore “best practices to foster compassion and enhance related emotional skills.” Funded by a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation, the five-year project aims to build empathy in order to affect positive social change.

Commenting on the initiative, director Kaywin Feldman said, “A visitor to our museum has the opportunity to experience works of art made over the course of some five thousand years, from every corner of the globe. One of the most meaningful aspects of this encounter is the awareness it can awaken of a common humanity—an immediate sense of connection between the viewer and someone who may have lived in a very different time and place. Thanks to the Mellon Foundation, we’re proud to take the lead with partners across the country, in studying how to spark and nurture empathy through the visual arts, so that MIA and all art museums can contribute even more toward building a just and harmonious society.”

The first phase of this initiative kicked off in October, when MIA invited experts in the social sciences, empathy research, virtual reality, and neuroscience fields, as well as museum curators and directors, artists, and educators, to discuss empathy and the art museum at the University of California, Berkeley—a partner in the research project.

December 14, 2017

Dane Mitchell to Represent New Zealand in 2019 Venice Biennale

Dane Mitchell.

The Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa has announced that artist Dane Mitchell will represent New Zealand in the Fifty-Eighth Venice Biennale, opening in May 2019. Zara Stanhope and Chris Sharp were named as the curators of the pavilion.

“We are thrilled with Dane’s selection by unanimous decision,” said Jenny Gibbs, the New Zealand at Venice Commissioner for 2019. “Known widely for his innovative and challenging work, Dane presented a strong proposal and we’re excited to have such an original project at this highly influential event.”

Mitchell was selected from a pool of eleven proposals for the biennial presentation. He will create a new sculptural project featuring broadcasts around Venice that “give voice to invisible realms.” Commenting on the piece, the artist told the New Zealand Herald that “It certainly won't be anything abrasive or aggressive across public spaces. There will be multiple ways to tune into it.” The piece will reflect the artist’s interest in the invisible aspects of space and how they’re perceived by using modern technologies to transmit signals and sounds.

December 14, 2017

Iran Opens First Museum Dedicated to a Single Female Artist

Film still from Monir, 2016, directed by Bahman Kiarostami and produced by Leyla Fakhr. Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line.

A museum celebrating the oeuvre of Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is set to open in Tehran on Friday, December 15. The institution will showcase fifty works from the ninety-three-year old artist’s personal collection. It is the first museum to be dedicated to the work of a single female artist in Iran.

The Monir Museum is located in in the historic Negarestan Museum Park Gardens, a former Qajar-era palace complex. Its collection includes the artist’s signature reverse glass painting and mirror mosaic works, which reference Islamic art and geometry, as well as several pieces from her “Heartache” series, sculptural boxes made of mixed collages, photographs, prints, and other objects, which she made in New York in the 1990s, following the death of her husband Abolbashar Farmanfarmaian.

“It is an honor for Monir to be recognized in her country of origin with the establishment of this new institution,” a spokesperson of the Third Line gallery in Dubai, which represents the artist, told the Art Newspaper. “It is unprecedented in Iran.”

December 13, 2017

Isuma to Represent Canada in 2019 Venice Biennale

Norman Cohn, Pauloosie Qulitalik, Lizzie Qulitalik, Mary Qulitalik, Rachel Uyarashuk, Jonah Uyarashuk, and Zacharias Kunuk on the set of Nunaqpa (Going Inland) in 1990.

The National Gallery of Canada announced today that the artist collective Isuma, led by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, will represent Canada at the Fifty-Eighth Venice Biennale, expected to open in May 2019. The group’s participation will mark the first time art by members of the Inuit community have been featured in Canada’s pavilion.

Isuma, which means “to think, or a state of thoughtfulness” in Inuktitut, is Canada’s first Inuit video-based production company. Cofounded by Kunuk, Cohn, Paul Apak Angilirq, and Pauloosie Qulitalik in 1990, the collective aims to preserve Inuit culture and language and to present their stories to Inuit and non-Inuit audiences around the world.

“Since the mid-1990s the Isuma collective has been challenging stereotypes about ways of life in the North and breaking boundaries in video art, including the first video-based work to win a major film award at the prestigious Cannes film festival,” said National Gallery of Canada director and CEO, Marc Mayer.

December 13, 2017

Getty Museum Receives Two Major Gifts of Photographs

Helen Levitt, New York, ca.1965. Courtesy: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today that it received donations of two groups of photographs from collectors Leslie and Judith Schreyer and Michael and Jane Wilson. The gifts include works by artists previously unrepresented in the museum’s collection. 

“These generous gifts complement and strengthen our holdings of important photographers from Los Angeles, New York, Europe, and Asia,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Both Les and Judy and Michael and Jane are longtime and enthusiastic supporters of the Museum and our photographs department. Their donations will provide a rich trove of images from which we will be able to organize future exhibitions.” 

The donation from Leslie and Judith Schreyer includes fifty photographs by thirty-nine artists. Among the best-known photographers in the group are Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, and Magnum Agency photographers W. Eugene Smith, Bruce Davidson, and Josef Koudelka. The collection also features fifteen photographers, who had yet to be represented in the museum’s collection, and works by members of the New York Photo League, such as Helen Levitt, Arthur Leipzig, and Leon Levinstein.

December 13, 2017

National Endowment for Humanities Awards $12.8 Million to 253 Projects

A WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) recruiting poster, ca. 1941. Photo: Wikipedia.

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced today that it is awarding $12.8 million in support of 253 projects across the nation. Among the many initiatives receiving funding are a virtual exhibition of New Deal art from the town of Gallup, New Mexico; a project documenting the language and storytelling traditions of the Blackfeet American Indians; a video-based web platform that will publish scholarly articles in sign language; an online archive that tells the story of the women who served in the Navy during World War II (known as WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service); and the conservation of oil paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe.

“The humanities offer us a path toward understanding ourselves, our neighbors, our nation,” said NEH acting chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “These new NEH grants exemplify the agency’s commitment to serving American communities through investing in education initiatives, safeguarding cultural treasures, and illuminating the history and values that define our shared heritage.”

The largest portion of the funding, $3.5 million, will go to various fellowship programs. $1.6 million will support preservation and education training grants, and another $1.6 million will also go to digital projects. The complete list of grantees can be found on the NEH’s website.

December 13, 2017

Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley to Curate Seventy-Ninth Whitney Biennial

Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta. Photo: Scott Rudd.

The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, members of the museum’s curatorial staff, will cocurate the next edition of Whitney Biennial, opening in May 2019. 

“Jane and Ru are two of the most compelling and engaged curatorial voices of our moment, with broad and sensitive instincts for artistic and cultural relevance,” Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s deputy director for programs and chief curator, said. “They are both passionate champions of emerging artists, while their more scholarly projects have shown keen insights about making history feel alive in the present. I’m delighted to see two more Whitney curators put their mark on our signature exhibition.”

Panetta, currently an associate curator at the Whitney, joined the museum’s curatorial department in 2010. Most recently, she has organized solo presentations of the work of Willa Nasatir and Njideka Akunyili Crosby as well as the group exhibition “Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s” (2017). Prior to joining the Whitney, Panetta spent several years in the Museum of Modern Art’s Painting and Sculpture Department. Hockley joined the Whitney’s staff as an assistant curator in March 2017. She has cocurated a number of exhibitions there, including “Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined with Melinda Lang,” which is currently on view at the museum through February 25, 2018, and “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017,” which is on view until summer 2018. Hockley also serves as a member of the institution’s Emerging Artist Working Group. Previously, Hockley was an assistant curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she cocurated “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” (2017).