March 25, 2011

Harvard Art Museums Receive Award from the National Endowment for the Arts

The Harvard Art Museums have announced they have received a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Access to Artistic Excellence grant. The grant of $75,000 is among the largest gifts awarded by the NEA in Massachusetts last year and will support the program Engaging New Americans: Explorations in Art, Self, and Our Democratic Heritage, designed by the Art Museums’ Education Department. This gallery-based program provides classes to recent Boston-area immigrants that incorporate the principles of object-based teaching, up-close engagement with original works of art, and key lessons from American civics and history.

“This important gift from the National Endowment for the Arts enables the Harvard Art Museums to reach out to new audiences and to use art and art instruction to strengthen communities,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot director of the Art Museums. “By utilizing the rich and varied collections of the museum, and creating new opportunities for observation, reflection, and discussion, the Engaging New Americans project seeks to broaden and enrich the path toward citizenship in a unique way.”

A pilot of the Engaging New Americans program was completed in 2009 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS). The NEA award has enabled expansion upon the pilot activities and aids in further partnerships with MAPS, Centro Latino, Inc., and the Everett Adult Learning Center, as well as other service providers for immigrants in the Boston area. Funds are used to support multiple classroom and informational visits to the Art Museums’ Arthur M. Sackler Museum, publish a sourcebook for students, and create a family day event at the Sackler Museum.

“The project aims to provide new generations of Americans with an opportunity to become comfortable in the museum environment, engage in deep and personal ways with original works of art, and add their own experiences to our shared narrative of American history,” said Ray Williams, director of education at the Art Museums. “Our hope for the future of this program is to disseminate the model to other museums across the country, introducing a new way to engage diverse communities.”

March 25, 2011

Matthew Barney To Be Honored at San Francisco Film Festival

Matthew Barney has been announced as the recipient of the fifty-fourth San Francisco International Film Festival’s Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award, reports Daniel Loria for The multimedia artist will receive the award on Saturday, April 30, before the North American premiere of his latest work, Drawing Restraint 17. The San Francisco International Film Festival will run from April 21 to May 5.

“We are delighted to present the persistence of vision award to Matthew Barney, an artist who continues to make innovative use of moving images as a vital part of his unique cosmology of provocative and memorable work,” said the San Francisco Film Society’s director of programming, Rachel Rosen.

The award, established in 1997, honors filmmakers who work outsides the confines of conventional narrative cinema. Past winners include Lourdes Portillo (2009), Errol Morris (2008), Guy Maddin (2006), Fernando Birri (2002), Kenneth Anger (2001), and Jan Svankmajer (1997).

March 25, 2011

LACMA Will Provide Online Image Library

Carol Vogel reports for the New York Times that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is perhaps the first museum to announce that it will provide free, high-resolution images through a new image library. So far about 2,000 images––only those in the public domain––are available from its collection of more than 100,000 works. Already available is a sampling of the collection: a Pissarro landscape; a 1704 still life of wild strawberries by the Dutch painter Adriaen Coorte; and gold earrings from the fifth to the seventh century. But the current selection is only a start. It will grow.

“I’ve been a huge believer in advancing our mission by making as much as we can available to the public,” said Michael Govan, director of LACMA.

“It’s a way of distributing information for educational purposes as widely as possible.” Since users could potentially take the works and make, say, posters or potholders adorned with a work from its collection, will the move cut into the revenue the museum gets from its shop?

“It’s negligible in the long run,” Govan said. “My view is that it’s better to get the images out there so people will want to come and see the real thing.”

Each work in the library comes with identifying information and a link to its listing on the museum’s online collections, where further information can be found.

March 25, 2011

Rose Art Museum to Close for Renovations

Megan McKee reports for the Boston Globe that Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum will be undergoing major renovations that college officials say will protect the museum’s acclaimed modern art collection for the long haul.

When the museum closes at the end of April, the shallow pond on the lower level will be removed, a new HVAC system will be installed, and new, energy-efficient glass will be replace the existing walls of glass on the front of the museum.

The museum will reopen in time for this fall's fiftieth anniversary celebration the museum’s founding. According to Brandeis, the renovations are being funded by university donors Sandra and Gerald S. Fineberg.

In addition to the energy and temperature-control upgrades, the Rose museum will get new ceilings, floors, and LED lighting system; the creation of a vestibule area; and the relocation of the reception desk and entryway wall.

Though the museum will temporarily close at the end of April, the Lois Foster Wing will remain open and accessible by a temporary entrance through mid-June.

Brandeis University officials drew widespread criticism from professors, students, alumni, and the art world when former president Jehuda Reinharz announced in Janurary 2009 plans to close the museum and sell of its 6,000 piece collection to help ease a multi-million dollar budget gap. Months later, a university panel recommended the museum remain open.

Three Rose museum overseers brought a lawsuit against the university seeking to halt the sale of artwork. A hearing is planned for April, according to the New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

March 25, 2011

Crystal Bridges Museum Announces New Staff

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has announced the addition of three key staff members. Matthew Dawson joined the museum’s senior management team as deputy director of art and education on March 14. David Houston assumed the role of director of curatorial on February 14, and Kevin Murphy began his position as curator of American art on March 9.

Dawson, who comes to Crystal Bridges from the recently opened Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, has more than twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture and museum management. He served as senior project manager during the construction phase of the MIM and director of public programs and guest experience upon its opening in April 2010. In his role at Crystal Bridges, he will oversee the curatorial and education functions of the museum.

Houston brings twenty-seven years of experience as a curator, professor, and public art administrator to his position as director of curatorial. He comes to Crystal Bridges from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, where he served as chief curator since January 2001 and co-director since January 2010.

Murphy comes to Crystal Bridges from the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., where he served as Bradford and Christine Mishler Associate Curator of American Art.

Houston and Murphy join previous Crystal Bridges curatorial staff members Chris Crosman, curator of collections, and Manuela Well-Off-Man, assistant curator.

According to the museum’s website, Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation and is “positioned to play a major role in Northwest Arkansas’ continued economic and cultural expansion. The museum will serve the region’s residents as well as draw visitors from around the nation and the world.”

March 24, 2011

Philanthropist Gives $13 Million to British Arts

Philanthropist Vivien Duffield has given $13.3 million to eleven of Britain’s leading arts and culture organizations, notes the Associated Press. Duffield says the money will be used to set up education centers for children. Duffield runs the Clore Duffield Foundation, established by her father, property magnate Charles Clore.

Recipients announced Thursday include the Museum of Liverpool, Kensington Palace, the National Theater, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the new Margate Contemporary gallery. The largest donations are four million dollars each to the Tate Britain museum and the National Theater.

March 24, 2011

Getty Returns Aphrodite to Sicily

The J. Paul Getty Museum’s iconic statue of Aphrodite was quietly escorted back to Sicily by Italian police last week, ending a decades-long dispute over an object whose craftsmanship, importance, and controversial origins have been likened to the Parthenon marbles in the British Museum, reports Jason Felch in the Los Angeles Times.

The seven-foot tall, 1,300-pound statue of limestone and marble was painstakingly taken off display at the Getty Villa and disassembled in December. Last week, it was locked in shipping crates with an Italian diplomatic seal and loaded aboard an Alitalia flight to Rome, where it arrived on Thursday. From there it traveled with an armed police escort by ship and truck to the small hilltop town of Aidone, Sicily, where it arrived Saturday to waiting crowds.

It was just outside this town, in the ruins of the ancient Greek colony of Morgantina, that authorities say the cult goddess lay buried for centuries before it was illegally excavated and smuggled out of Italy.

When the Getty bought the Aphrodite for eighteen million dollars in 1988, the statue’s importance outweighed the signs of its illicit origins. “The proposed statue of Aphrodite would not only become the single greatest piece of ancient art in our collection; it would be the greatest piece of classical sculpture in this country and any country outside of Greece and Great Britain,” wrote former antiquities curator Marion True in proposing the acquisition.

For years, the museum clung to the story that the statue had been in the family of a former Swiss policeman, Renzo Canavesi, for more than fifty years after being purchased by his father in Paris in the 1930s. It took dramatic evidence of the statue’s illicit origins—and an alleged link to organized crime—to destroy the credibility of that cover story and persuade the Getty’s board to return the statue.

In 2006, private detectives hired by the Getty uncovered more than a dozen photos of the statue. One shows fragments of the goddess scattered in a pile of dirt on a brown tile floor. In another, pieces of varying sizes were lined up in rows on a large, thick plastic sheet. Another photo showed the statue’s marble face still encrusted with grime.

It is not clear who took the photos or where they were taken. But the fact that the statue had been in fragments and covered in dirt as recently as the early 1980s—the date on the photographs—was seen as clear evidence that it had been illegally excavated not long before the Getty bought it.

March 24, 2011

Guggenheim Responds to Artists’ Abu Dhabi Boycott

According to WNYC, the Guggenheim Foundation issued a letter on Wednesday saying that an artists’ boycott of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi was jeopardizing its project. One hundred and thirty five artists signed onto an online petition last week protesting working conditions for migrant workers building the Guggenheim’s new museum on Saadiyat Island, including “unlawful recruiting fees, broken promises of wages, and a sponsorship system that gives employers virtually unlimited power.”

The artists had based their petition on a 2009 report by the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch. According to the report, which draws on interviews with ninety-four workers on Saadiyat Island, workers were made to pay individual recruitment fees to labor supply companies in their home countries of up to $4,100 in exchange for jobs in construction of the lavish tourism and cultural center developing on Saadiyat Island. Instead, when they arrived in Abu Dhabi, the report found that the workers made far less than promised and their passports were being confiscated by employers, among other things.

In the Guggenheim’s letter to the organizers of the petition on Wednesday, artists Emily Jacir and Walid Raad, the foundation’s director Richard Armstrong and its deputy director and chief curator, Nancy Spector, said the Guggenheim’s partner in Abu Dhabi, the Tourism Development and Investment Company, had done its own research on the labor issues raised in the petition and released a report with its findings.

“The report found that 90 percent of the workers interviewed held their passports and the remaining 10 percent had visas in process,” the Guggenheim said in its letter. “100 percent of the workers interviewed were holding their employment contracts and in all cases the actual conditions were found to be consistent with what was described in the agreements.”

The Guggenheim added that it thought the statements made by Human Rights Watch had painted an inaccurate picture of the progress made in safeguarding workers’ rights. The letter maintained that the Guggenheim’s partner, the TDIC, required its contractors to reimburse workers in full for any fees associated with their recruitment.

New York artist Rene Gabri, who is involved with the artists’ boycott, said the Guggenheim's statement was a step forward in negotiations in the name of the workers. But he said it fell short on the details.
“We just don’t have enough facts. Why don’t we know who it is that’s monitoring? There are different types of monitoring,“ Gabri said. ”It’s very hard for us to take everything at their word. We haven’t seen these reports or seen what procedure was taken.”

March 24, 2011

Jihmye Collins (1939–2011)

Growing up in segregated Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jihmye Collins had to ride a bus past three schools to get to one that taught African-Americans, reports Blanca Gonzalez for the San Diego Union-Tribune. As an adult, he advocated for justice and unity while blending his passion for art and activism. A poet and a painter with a keen interest in politics, Collins was a founding member of the African American Artists & Writers and San Diego Writers, Ink.

A San Diego resident since 1969, he worked for Western Behavioral Sciences Institute for several years before devoting himself full time to artistic pursuits. “He was the most multifaceted person that I knew,” said his wife, Susan. “He enjoyed everything he did and he loved his family.” In addition to painting and writing poems, he published essays, illustrated books, and conducted workshops in art as an educational tool. His works include several public art projects in San Diego, including one at the Lillian Place housing development in the East Village area.

He was active with the Public Arts Advisory Council, County Commission on Human Relations, African American Artists Collective, Spanish Village Art Center, and Combined Organization of Visual Arts.