November 28, 2017

Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale Draws Record Numbers

The Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale.

The Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale, which closed on Sunday, November 26, reported that its 2017 edition was the most attended exhibition in the Biennale’s history. Curated by Christine Macel, “Viva Arte Viva” welcomed more than 615,000 visitors over its six-month run, in addition to 23,531 people who attended its preview days. These figures mark a 23 percent increase from the 2015 Biennale, which drew 501,502 visitors.

Macel and the show’s president, Paolo Baratta, also noted that there was a high number of young visitors. People under twenty-six years of age made up 31 percent of the total visitors, and 15 percent of the visitors were students. Baratta attributed the surge in attendance to the main exhibition as well as “a growing familiarity with contemporary art” and “a growing desire to discover first-hand the vitality of art.”

The exhibition showcased the work of 120 artists and featured thirty nations in the pavilions of Giardini, including three countries that participated for the first time: Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, and Nigeria. Macel said it was “designed with artists, by artists, and for artists.”

November 28, 2017

Cancellation of German Exhibition over Restitution Claims Sparks Controversy

Max Stern in Germany, 1925. Courtesy: the National Gallery of Canada Archives/Fonds Max Stern.

The mayor of Düsseldorf is facing international criticism after he canceled an upcoming exhibition about Jewish art dealer Max Stern and the restitution of paintings from his collection, which he was forced to sell by the Nazis in 1937, reports Sara Angel in the Globe and Mail. In a statement issued by the city, “restitution claims in connection to Max Stern” were cited as the reason for shutting down the show.

Slated to open at the Düsseldorf Stadtmuseum in February, “Max Stern: From Düsseldorf to Montreal” would have showcased how Stern rebuilt his life in Canada after he fled Germany during World War II, and how his heirs launched the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, a Montreal-based initiative that works toward resolving issues related to cultural theft during the Nazi regime.

For the director of the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, Clarence Epstein, the cancelation of the show is “tragic.” “Düsseldorf already once expunged Max Stern from history. It is now happening again, with little resistance from those within Germany who are able to stop it.”

November 28, 2017

August Uribe Returns to Sotheby’s as Vice Chairman, Americas

August Uribe. Photo: Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s has announced that August Uribe has rejoined the auction house as vice chairman overseeing the Americas. Uribe previously worked with Sotheby’s Latin American and Impressionist and modern art departments for twenty-two years. In 2014, he left the auction house to join Phillips as its worldwide co-head of contemporary art.

“We are delighted to welcome Augie back to Sotheby’s,” Valentino D. Carlotti, Sotheby’s global head of business development, said. “His deep relationships and network across geographies will be critical assets for us in serving our clients.”

Uribe first began his career at Sotheby’s in 1991, when he joined as director of the Latin American art department. He held numerous leadership positions during his tenure at the auction house, including director of business development for Latin America, managing director of fine arts for Sotheby’s West Coast operations, head of the Impressionist and modern art day sales in New York, and senior specialist for the Impressionist and modern art evening sale.

November 28, 2017

New Curatorial Project Space Launches in Helsinki

Still from the film UK Gay Bar Directory, 2016, by Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings. Courtesy: Publics

Publics, a new curatorial agency and events space, will debut in Helsinki this December. The idea for the organization grew out of the contemporary art initiative Checkpoint Helsinki, which was established in 2013 as a nomadic nonprofit that works with local institutions to commission art and produce curatorial projects. Under the artistic direction of curator Paul O’Neill, with program manager and curator Eliisa Suvanto, Publics will explore a collaborative institutional model committed to “critical social thinking, contemporary art, and publicness.”

Publics will open on December 9 with inaugural programming held at three different locations. Its affiliated events space in the neighborhood of Vallila will host a series of artist and curator talks and book launches, including How Institutions Think, a new anthology edited by Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds, and Mick Wilson published by MIT Press. James Hoff will also give a talk on his art practice and his experiences as a publisher and DJ. Other events include a lecture on issues of curatorial autonomy versus interdependency by London-based curator Adelaide Bannerman; a spatial intervention and related talk with artist Kathrin Böhm; and “The Food Thing,” an ongoing curatorial research project by artist-educator Mick Wilson, which will be presented during a shared meal in a local African restaurant. The evening will end in club Kaiku, with DJ sets by James Hoff, Paul O’Neill, and @Gaybar. Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings will show unseen footage from the UK Gay Bar Directory, 2016, a moving-image archive of gay bars in the UK.

November 28, 2017

Art Students League of New York Appoints Michael Rips as Executive Director

Michael Rips. Photo: Ric Ocasek.

The Art Students League of New York announced today that Michael Rips, an attorney who specializes in artists’ rights and intellectual property law, has been named its new executive director. Rips succeeds Ira Goldberg, who retired in January 2017.

“Michael is a uniquely talented individual who understands art, artists, creativity, nonprofits, fundraising, and the law,” Art Students League board president Ellen Taylor said in a statement. “He is known and respected by many of America’s most distinguished artists and civic and cultural leaders. Having worked to successfully reinvigorate the league in recent years, we look forward to having Michael bring our institution to even greater heights.”

Prior to joining the Art Students League, Rips was a special council in the New York office of Steptoe & Johnson, and clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. His clients have included artists James Rosenquist and David Salle, the Queens Museum, the estate of Dan Flavin, and the Dia Art Foundation. A graduate of Princeton University, Oxford University, and George Washington University Law School, Rips writes frequently on the arts and has built an extensive collection of African and contemporary art.

November 28, 2017

Arts Professionals Challenge UK Museums’ Right to Charge Image Reproduction Fees

An image of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, ca. 1503–06, sourced through Wikipedia.

Museums throughout the United Kingdom do not possess copyrights to license new photos of historic works of art in their holdings, a number of law experts say. Their comments are being used to support a campaign, led by art historian Bendor Grosvenor, to prevent British museums from collecting fees for use of images of art that have gone out of their original copyright, according to Ivan Macquisten of the Art Newspaper. The campaigners say that the fees are detrimental to arts scholarship, and that UK museums should look to institutions like the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia or the Mauritshuis in The Hague for the way they’ve handled photographs of works in their collections (the former has made available thousands of images from its holdings online for free). The UK government is being asked to look into the problem, and Tate is reviewing its policies for 2018.

“The [European] Court of Justice has made it quite clear: for a photograph to be protected by copyright, it must be original in the sense that the photographer has exercised creative choices and thereby stamped the photograph with their personal imprint,” said Lionel Bently, a professor of intellectual property law at the University of Cambridge. “A photographer who merely seeks to control light and angles to create an image of a work of art is highly unlikely to have created a copyright work.” However, Simon Stokes––a lawyer who wrote the 2001 book Art and Copyright––says that the UK’s understanding of the European ruling hasn’t proved itself airtight in the courts: “On the balance of probabilities, I would say that copyright does not apply [to museums]––but it’s not beyond doubt.” Museums can legally validate reasons for preventing people from taking high-quality images of pieces in their collections and “restricting access under special contract terms”: “In effect, they can utilize land law to set conditions of behavior on their premises and contract law to limit re-use of digital files they supply,” says Bently.

Andrea Wallace, a professor at the University of Exeter’s law school, is a specialist on the effect digital technology has had on various cultural institutions. Her research on the frequently reproduced Mona Lisa––of which she could only find three free versions, via black-and-white negatives, through the Library of Congress in Washington, DC––underlines how hard it is to get access to such material without having to pay for it. Nonetheless, as many public institutions are struggling with severe budget cuts, Wallace understands why museums need the income: “Public funds are decreasing and institutions have to maintain digital and material collections and extend access to them to the international public. That costs money. We should shift our perception of these fees away from being copyright charges, which are not transparent and can be anywhere from dozens to thousands of pounds, towards that of service-based fees, which are much smaller and reflect the actual cost of digitization.”

November 28, 2017

Art Basel Reaches Settlement with Adidas over Trademark Infringement

The sneakers given out at Art Basel Miami in 2016. Photo: Adidas.

Earlier this year, Art Basel sued Adidas for using the art fair’s trademark on one thousand pairs of sneakers that were given away at a promotional event during the fair’s 2016 iteration in Miami. Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper writes that the fair and its parent company, MCH Group, have reached an out-of-court settlement with the brand.

Adidas recognized in a statement that it “did not obtain a license to use the Art Basel mark for these shoes, and Adidas was not a partner with, or a sponsor of, the Art Basel show,” further noting, “Adidas regrets these actions and is pleased that the lawsuit filed by Art Basel has been settled amicably.”

An Art Basel spokesperson said the fair is “satisfied with this settlement as it demonstrates its successful endeavor to actively protect its brand against trademark infringements.” The settlement’s terms have not been made public.

November 28, 2017

Jens Hoffmann Leaves Curatorial Post at FRONT International Triennial

From left: Michelle Grabner and Jens Hoffmann.

Curator Jens Hoffmann has left his post as the coartistic director of FRONT International, Cleveland’s first triennial exhibition, scheduled to open in July 2018. Artist, curator, and writer Michelle Grabner, who worked with Hoffmann in organizing the event, has now assumed full artistic directorship of the exhibition. According to a statement from FRONT, “Michelle Grabner will continue to conduct artist studio visits and work collaboratively with curators at the various presenting partner institutions throughout Northeast Ohio to activate and realize a complex exhibition program.”

Hoffman explained his departure to Artnews, writes Nate Freeman. In an email to the publication, he said: “I decided to withdraw from FRONT to focus on my other projects, such as the Second Honolulu Biennial in 2019, my role as chief curator at MOCA Detroit, my work for the Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco, and a number of other exhibitions taking place over the next years. Putting together an exhibition like FRONT, which has so many different museums, off-site venues, and local curators and administrators taking part in the larger curatorial process, all of which need their voices to be heard, is not an easy undertaking.” He added that he “personally could not identify with the directions [the exhibition] was taking,” but is “confident that FRONT will be a wonderful experience for visitors and the participating artists.”

FRONT International opens on July 14, 2018, and will run through September 30, 2018. Some of the institutions collaborating for the triennial include the Akron Art Museum, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Public Library, MOCA Cleveland, SPACES, and Transformer Station. A. K. Burns, Kay Rosen, Tino Sehgal, Martine Syms, Allen Ruppersberg, and William E. Jones are among the artists who will be featured in the show.

November 27, 2017

Courtauld Gallery to Close for $66 Million Renovation

Impression of the reconfiguration of the Great Room of the Courtauld Gallery. Photo: The Boundary

The Courtauld Institute of Art has announced that it will close its gallery for two years, beginning in fall 2018, while it undergoes a $66 million revamp that will expand its Great Room and refurbish its first- and second-floor galleries. Led by architects Witherford Watson Mann, the redevelopment aims to improve accessibility and visitor experience. According to The Guardian, the renovation will be the biggest overhaul of the gallery since the Courtauld Institute moved into the eighteenth-century building in 1989.

Dubbed Courtauld Connects, the project was given the green light by the Westminister council in September. The council’s planning report states that the renovation will create more than 1,500 square feet of space by reconfiguring existing areas. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already pledged $13 million for the first phase, which will focus on overhauling the rooms that house the permanent collection. The second phase of the project will upgrade the institution’s facilities for teaching and research.

A statement issued by the institution noted that while the gallery is closed, the institution “will remain open and a thriving center for the study of art history, conservation, and curating.”