September 14, 2017

Documenta 14 Curatorial Team Reacts to Bankruptcy News, Denounces Stakeholders’ “Exploitative Model”

Adam Szymczyk. Photo: e-flux / lokalo24

Documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk and the curatorial team have released an open letter in response to recent reports that the exhibition is facing an $8.4 million deficit resulting from managerial oversights.

“We have decided at this moment to speak out, and collectively take agency to protect the independence of documenta as a cultural and artistic public institution from political interests,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, politicians have prompted the media upheaval by disseminating an image of imminent bankruptcy of documenta and at the same time presented themselves as the ‘saviors’ of a crisis they themselves allowed to develop.”

On September 12, the German newspaper HNA published an article claiming that the exhibition was bankrupt and that the insolvency of its parent company was only averted because the state of Hesse and the city of Kassel agreed to act as guarantors to keep the exhibition running until September 17. It also alleged that Szymczyk’s two-city vision for the quinquennial caused Documenta to go over its $44 million budget, and that managing director Annette Kulenkampff “lacked perseverance and experience” to stop him.

Published on Thursday, September 14, the Documenta team’s letter denounces the “exploitative model under which the stakeholders of documenta wish the ‘most important exhibition of the world’ to be produced.”

“The expectations of ever-increasing success and economic growth not only generate exploitative working conditions but also jeopardize the possibility of the exhibition remaining a site of critical action and artistic experimentation,” it reads.

Here is the letter in full:

September 14, 2017

Chinese Artist Huang Rui’s Studio Slated for Demolition

Chinese artist Huang Rui in his studio. Photo Michael Young / ArtAsiaPacific

Ten years after building an arts studio near Beijing’s 798 Art Zone in 2007, artist Huang Rui was notified by the Chinese government that his work space is going to be demolished, Michael Young of ArtAsiaPacific reports. The contemporary artist and cofounder of the Stars art group suspects that the city is clearing land to plant billions of trees, which was a campaign promise from Chinese president Xi Jinping.

An area north of Huang’s studio has already been converted into the new green space, which is meant to combat air pollution. Towards the south, several warehouses have been knocked down over the past few weeks. The artist admits that his studio was constructed illegally and that he has been informed by officials that it must go, but no formal action was taken.

“I have written to the local government several times, suggesting that rather than demolish the building, it could be turned into some form of cultural center,” Huang said. “Or also a form of heritage building, an example of a modern courtyard house. This is just one idea that might just save the building. But they have not replied.”

September 14, 2017

Alice Walton Launches Foundation Dedicated to American Art

Alice Walton.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art founder Alice Walton has established a foundation in support of American art. The new nonprofit will fund exhibitions, facilitate partnerships between various institutions, and grow its collection of works by American artists.

“Our country’s significant works of art should be available for all to see and enjoy,” said Walton. “Outstanding artworks are in museum vaults and private collections; let’s make that art available to everyone, and provide a way to experience these cultural treasures.”

Art Bridges will work on projects that range from loaning single objects to organizing large-scale exhibitions. It is currently working to develop projects with the Brooklyn Museum, New York’s MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, among others.

September 14, 2017

Yale Library Acquires Barbara Hammer Archive

Barbara Hammer.

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has added the archives of visual artist and queer cinema pioneer Barbara Hammer to its collection. Comprising notebooks, journals, manuscripts, correspondence, and photographs that span several decades, the archive will be accessible to the public in 2018.

“Barbara Hammer is an extraordinary innovator and influencer in contemporary culture,” said Timothy Young, curator of modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Library. “Our colleagues at the Yale Film Study Center describe her as the most influential lesbian filmmaker of the 1970s. . . .The addition of her extensive archives will enrich teaching and learning at Yale in many fields, from women’s and gender studies to filmmaking and art, and will draw scholars from beyond campus now and in the future.”

After learning of her archives’ new home, Hammer said, “I am delighted that my archives will live alongside and be in conversation with those of artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, among others who experimented in their work, while making important contributions to the social and sexual landscape.” The artist’s works will also be showcased at the Fifty-Fifth annual New York Film Festival and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art this fall.

September 14, 2017

Walker Art Center’s Board Calls for Independent Review of Its Handling of Scaffold

Scaffold, 2012, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Photo: Evan Frost

Following the controversy surrounding Los Angeles–based artist Sam Durant’s sculpture Scaffold, 2012, the board at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has hired a law firm to review the staff’s decision to dismantle the work, Sheila M. Eldred of the New York Times reports.

The piece, which was inspired by seven executions, including the hanging of thirty-eight Dakotas in Mankato in 1862—the largest mass execution in United States history—was considered offensive by American Indians. Some claimed the sculpture, which was meant to be a permanent fixture in the center’s revamped Sculpture Garden, was a monument to genocide. A public outcry in May led to protests and an appeal to the center for its removal.

In response, Durant and the museum’s director Olga Viso apologized to the Dakota Nation, held discussions with tribal elders, and ultimately, decided to dismantle the installation and give its remnants to the Dakota people. After pledging to increase its efforts to reach out to American Indians about public programming and events at the institution, the center faced backlash when it opened its retrospective of Jimmie Durham in June due to doubts about his Cherokee ancestry.

September 13, 2017

Barry Diller Pulls the Plug on NYC’s Pier 55

Manhattan’s Pier 54. Photo: Wikipedia

After a years-long legal battle with a small civic group, media mogul Barry Diller announced on Wednesday, September 13, that he will abandon his plan to build and operate a $250 million cultural pier and public park on Manhattan’s West Side. Diller had championed the idea to transform the defunct Pier 54 into Pier 55, a 2.7-acre island park with multiple performance venues, since the Hudson River Park Trust first approached him about the project in 2011.

“Because of the huge escalating costs and the fact it would have been a continuing controversy over the next three years I decided it was no longer viable for us to proceed,” Diller told Charles V. Bagli, who first reported the news in the New York Times. Pier 55 was originally supposed to cost only $35 million.

The controversy over the park escalated last year, when Diller revealed his suspicions that real estate developer Douglas Durst was secretly financing lawsuits filed by the City of New York, a group of New York residents who advocate for responsible urban planning. After being inactive for a number of years, the group successfully halted the project after making a legal complaint in 2015, which cited environmental concerns. However, in September of 2016, the New York State Appellate Division gave the project a green light. At the time, Diller said he was happy that the court ruled in favor of Pier 55, adding: “I’m sure we’ll continue to be tested.”

September 13, 2017

Artadia Reveals 2017 Chicago Award Winners

Rashayla Marie Brown, Credibility, Viability, Accuracy/Maya Angelou as a Sex Worker/Can’t Knock the Hustle, 2016, and Claire Pentecost, The Library of Tears, 2016. Photo: Artadia

Rashayla Marie Brown and Claire Pentecost have been named the 2017 Chicago Artadia Award winners. They will each be given $10,000 in unrestricted funds, access to the ongoing benefits of the Artadia Awards program, and the opportunity to present their works at Artadia’s booth at EXPO CHICAGO. Pentecost will present The Library of Tears, a large-scale sculpture that employs materials resulting from oil and gas extraction, and Brown will exhibit a multimedia installation featuring photographs, video, and ephemera.

The award’s jury, comprising artist Rashid Johnson; Omar Kholeif, the senior curator and director of global initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Susan Thompson, assistant curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Megha Ralapati, the residency and special projects manager at Hyde Park Art Center selected five finalists: Rashayla Marie Brown, Alex Chitty, Cameron Clayborn, Faheem Majeed, and Claire Pentecost.

“Rashayla Marie Brown is developing a new paradigm that shifts the way we consider identity and representation today,” Ralapati said. “The work enacts a code of ethics for all who participate in it: artistic collaborators, patrons, and of course the artist herself. Rashayla is on the verge of big things, which we hope this award will help make possible.” Commenting on Pentecost’s work, Ralapati said, “Claire Pentecost has spent two decades evolving a practice, which ardently interrogates the cumulative impacts of climate change on our planet and all its life forms. Her work reminds us of the great urgency of this issue, to science and art in equal measure.”

September 13, 2017

Anita Thacher (1940–2017)

Anita Thacher. Photo: Geanna Merola

New York artist and filmmaker Anita Thacher, best known for her 16mm and 35mm works—ranging from Black Track, 1969, a collaboration with Dennis Oppenheim, to the trilogy Cut, 2013, Chase, and The End, both 2015—has died. Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn confirmed that she passed on September 8.

Thacher’s interest in the arts was sparked by music at the age of five. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the New School for Social Research in English literature and studied painting at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture. Today, her work can be found in the public collections of New York’s MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Chicago Art Institute, Cinémathèque Française in Paris, and the Musée des Beaux Arts in Belgium.

Thacher has been honored with a number of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council of the Arts, the American Film Institute, the French Ministry of Culture, and the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, among others. She was also the inaugural recipient of the Martin E. Segal Award of Lincoln Center. A solo exhibition featuring her 1983 work Anteroom will be shown at Microscope Gallery in October.

September 13, 2017

Bellevue Arts Museum Appoints Benedict Heywood as Executive Director

Benedict Heywood.

The Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington has named Benedict Heywood as its next executive director. He will take up the post on September 18. Heywood is currently the project director at North American Indians and Edward S. Curtis. He founded the nonprofit art space the Soap Factory in Minneapolis, and relocated to the Seattle area two years ago to lead Pivot Art + Culture for collector and philanthropist Paul Allen.

The museum also recently promoted Eileen Herbert, currently the curator of learning and public programming, to the role of director of advancement. “These organizational changes will help the museum build upon our successes over the past year,” said outgoing executive director Karin Kidder. “The museum is an essential part of a growing and dynamic downtown Bellevue and the work it does has tremendous impact both locally and nationally. I am very proud to have been a part of it for over three years.”