June 23, 2013

International News Digest


Jeu de Paume director Marta Gili and other administrators at the French museum have come under fire—and have even received threats of violence—for staging the exhibition “Phantom Home,” the first complete survey of work by Palestinian photographer Ahlam Shibli. The exhibition features a series that explores the treatment of Palestinian suicide bombers as “martyrs”; according to the Art Media Agency, the museum has been “accused of producing pro-Palestinian propaganda which justifies terrorism.” In response, the Jeu de Paume issued a statement saying that it “strongly refutes all accusations surrounding the apology of terrorism and its tolerance. The museum is planning on pressing charges against all threats.” Apparently, the threats received by museum staffers have been extreme enough that even the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art has begun a petition, on change.org, in support of Gili and other Jeu de Paume employees. The petition, which states, “We are against such pressures on any cultural institution dedicated to promoting the principles of artistic expression and freedom,” has so far garnered nearly 1,500 signatures.

Eva González-Sancho, the director of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, has resigned from her position after assuming her duties just three months ago; the curator left MUSAC on the grounds that the Fundación Siglo—which oversees MUSAC and other institutions as an executive arm of the regional government—was constantly meddling with her administrative and artistic program. “This has been an extremely hard decision for me to [make],” González-Sancho told artforum.com. “The constant interfering of Fundación Siglo in my work at all levels and the differences in our opinions forced me to take a stand. It was for me a matter of professional integrity and ethics. I had no other choice. I am very grateful to all people and colleagues that have expressed their support throughout this painful process.” In addition, the entire MUSAC advisory committee chose to resign in support of González-Sancho. ADACE, the Spanish association of contemporary art museum directors, has expressed solidarity with the curator and has criticized the Castilla y León administration’s actions in two open letters, one of which proclaimed the group's “disagreement with the political decisions that resulted in this resignation and that unfortunately reflect a kind of behavior that has yet to be eliminated from this country's political practices.” Meanwhile, enumerating reasons for her departure in her resignation letter, González-Sancho cited the government’s decision to use nearly $80,000 of MUSAC’s budget to pay for a collateral event featuring regional artist Ángel Marcos at the Venice Biennale. Meanwhile, Laurie Rojas reports in the Art Newspaper that Manuel Oliveira, the former director of the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo, will fill the position being vacated by González-Sancho, who is now cocurating the Lofoten International Art Festival, with Anne Szefer Karlsen and Bassam El Baroni.

Rojas also writes in the Art Newspaper that Spain’s minister of education, culture, and sport, Jose Ignacio Wert, has indicated that he will consider reviewing the country’s unusually high VAT rate, after the president of the Spanish autonomous region of Extremadura submitted a proposal to reduce the VAT rate from 21 percent to 13 percent. The VAT, a tax on cultural goods (from which nonprofits and public museums are exempt), rose from 8 percent to its current rate last September. Rojas writes that Spain currently has the highest VAT rate, and that the majority of European countries have their tax rates set to less than 10 percent.

Der Standard reports that police have discovered and raided an international art forgery gang based in Germany, Switzerland, and Israel. The six suspects who’ve been apprehended are said to have forged more than four hundred valuable works in the style of Russian avant-garde artists and to have sold these fakes for many millions of euros. They claimed to be offering works by Kandinsky, Malevich, and Goncharova, among others, and provided certificates of authenticity that gave the impression that the works had previously gone undiscovered. Many of the paintings have been sold and exhibited in Germany and abroad; most have been auctioned off to private collectors. The German Federal Criminal Police has reported that the two main suspects––one German-Tunisian and one Israeli––were taken into custody in Wiesbaden. Investigators found more than one thousand fabricated paintings and documents of sales and provenances, as well as jewelry and other valuables.

June 21, 2013

Bloomberg Grants $15 Million to Museums to Update Mobile Guides

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a $15 million dollar commitment to provide support for museums to replace traditional audio guides with mobile guides that include GPS and 3D imaging, reports Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times. Institutions receiving funding include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Said Bloomberg: “For me, support for the arts has always been about connecting people with culture by making it as accessible as possible to the greatest number of people.”

June 21, 2013

Queens Museum Announces Inaugural Studio Program Artists

The Queens Museum has announced the artists who have been selected for its inaugural studio program, which grants artists subsidized studio space for one year, reports Zoë Lescaze of the New York Observer. Nine artists were selected from some five hundred applicants; the program also provides recipients with the opportunity to extend their residency for two years. Said director Tom Finkelpearl: “This first group reflects a diversity of approaches and backgrounds that will bring a fantastic energy to our new space. We’re excited to see the work that emerges and the dialogues that ensue. There is nothing like having real, live artists in the building at all times.” The nine recipients are as follows: Juan Betancurth, Onyedika Chuke, Shahab Fotouhi, Caitlin Keogh, Mike Kenney, Filip Olzeweski and Bunny Rogers, Jewyo Rhii, and Caroline Woolard.

June 20, 2013

American Folk Art Museum Receives $1.6 Million Grant

The American Folk Art Museum has received a $1.6 million grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for its national traveling exhibition, “Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum,” reports Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times. Since 1982, the Luce Foundation’s American Art program has given more than $145 million to over 250 museums, universities, and service organizations.The exhibition, which will begin at the American Folk Art Museum’s New York location at Lincoln Center and will travel to five other cities over the next three years, includes more than one hundred masterworks from the museum's collection of drawings, paintings, carvings, and quilts.

June 20, 2013

Ashmolean Museum Director Steps Down

Christopher Brown, director of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford for the last sixteen years, has announced his retirement, reports Carol Vogel of the New York Times. In his tenure at the museum, Brown oversaw its ninety-eight million dollar renovation and a rise in visitor attendance to more than a million visitors per year. He plans to leave the museum at the end of September 2014 to become a research professor at Oxford for three years, focusing on the study of van Dyck and Rembrandt. The Ashmolean will present an exhibition on Rembrandt organized by Brown in 2016.

June 20, 2013

Sree Sreenivasan Named Met’s First Chief Digital Officer

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has named Sree Sreenivasan as its first chief digital officer. He currently serves as a professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, where he was also appointed its first chief digital officer last year. In his new role, Sreenivasan will be responsible for managing and producing digital content about the Met’s collections. He starts on August 12.

June 20, 2013

Pilvi Takala Wins 2013 Emdash Award

The Emdash Foundation has announced Pilvi Takala as the winner of the 2013 Emdash Award. The prize grants an emerging artist based in the UK the opportunity to realize an artwork at Frieze London. Takala’s winning proposal, which was chosen out of a pool of 550 applications, will create a committee of children—led by the artist and educator Polly Brannan—that will decide the final form of the project throughout a series of workshops that will take place during the three months before the fair in October. Takala studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, and Glasgow School of Art and has had recent solo exhibitions at Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, and Carlos/Ishikawa, London.

June 20, 2013

Sotheby’s Considers Sale of Headquarters

Sotheby’s is beginning to explore the possibility that it will sell its ten-story, 490,000-square-foot headquarters at York Avenue and Seventy-second Street, which it has occupied for more than thirty years, reports Graham Bowley of the New York Times. The company has hired two real estate firms, Eastdil Secured and Jones Lang LaSalle, for the initial search of a buyer and potential sale of its building, which was built in 1925 as a cigar factory and functioned as a Kodak warehouse in 1949. Sotheby’s first occupied the space in 1980 and, in 2000, completed a $140 million expansion and renovation. Amid a federal investigation of a price-fixing conspiracy, Sotheby’s sold the building in 2002 for $175 million, leasing it back from the buyer, RFR Holding, and later repurchasing it in 2009 for $370 million, where it assumed the existing mortgage of $235 million and paid $135 million in cash. Details of a new location for the auction house have not yet been disclosed.

June 19, 2013

Norbert Schwontkowski (1949–2013)

The artist Norbert Schwontkowski passed away on Friday, according to his New York gallery, Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Born in Bremen, Germany, Schwontkowski was featured in solo exhibitions at the Kunstverein Hamburg and the Museum Het Domein in the Netherlands, among other venues. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts, Hamburg, as a professor of painting and drawing, and had pieces included in the Beaufort Triennial and the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. In a review for Artforum of his 2006 solo show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Elizabeth Schambelan noted the “quiet intelligence and subtle strangeness” of Schwontkowski’s work, writing, “His pictures are beguiling, even as they strongly project a kind of guilelessness.”