Artist Allan Sekula has passed away. While Sekula’s practice began in the 1970s with performances and installations among other media, he eventually became best known for a photographic oeuvre that investigated the politics of globalization and capitalism. The historical and critical texts he produced as part of his photographic work—starting with Aerospace Folktales in 1973—“shifted the terms on which the medium is understood and influenced a generation of artists and scholars,” in the words of Edward Dimendberg in Bomb. As a film and video artist, Sekula also often collaborated with theorist Noël Burch, making projects ranging including The Reagan Tapes (1984) and The Forgotten Space (2010). Sekula was a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, and the NEA. His work has been featured in solo shows at the Ludwig Museum in Budapest, Kunsthaus Graz in Austria, and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and his films have been screened at Tate Modern and New York’s Museum of Modern Art among other venues. Sekula also taught at California Institute of the Arts in the photography and media department. Last year, the College Art Association recognized him with the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art, for his publication of volumes including Photography against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works 1973–83 (1984) and Performance under Working Conditions (2003).
The Irving Penn Foundation has gifted one hundred photographs by Penn to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The collection spans eight decades and illustrates the span of the oeuvre created by the artist, who worked fluidly between art and commercial photography, notes Katherine Boyle of the Washington Post. Said Smithsonian director Elizabeth Broun: “This is one of the most significant [Penn] collections, primarily because it is a retrospective look at his career. We can see that there are these dramatic and wonderful crossovers between drama, portraiture, and landscape, and how the worlds of commerce and fine art are blurred and influence each other.” Boyle adds that Penn donated sixty works to the museum in 1988 and the Smithsonian has been pursuing another donation to complete its collection ever since. An exhibition of its collection of Penn’s work is slated for 2015.
Ruth Asawa, a San Francisco–based artist known for her crocheted wire sculptures, died Tuesday at age eighty-seven, reports Lee Romney of the Los Angeles Times. Born in 1926 in Norwalk, California, Asawa was uprooted in her childhood from her father’s truck farm during World War II to live on the Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia in 1942 then later a war relocation center in Arkansas. She went on to attend Milwaukee State Teachers College in order to become an art teacher, but anti-Japanese sentiments prevented her from finding work. Asawa then moved to North Carolina to attend Black Mountain College, where she studied from 1946 to 1949 under Josef Albers, who taught her to employ everyday materials such as wire.
Despite previous difficulties, Asawa further pursued her interest in art education, establishing the Alvarado Arts Workshop for schoolchildren in 1968 and a public arts high school in 1982, which was later renamed the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts in her honor. The many communal projects Asawa created throughout her lifetime, including Hyatt Fountain on Union Square, 1973, continue to be permanent fixtures of the San Francisco landscape.
Nicholas Fox Weber, the executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation since 1979, has been named a chevalier of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, reports Andrew Russeth of GalleristNY. In 2005, Weber established the American Friends of Le Korsa, which seeks to improve the quality of everyday life in Senegal by providing medical assistance; under his direction, AFLK has constructed numerous medical centers and educational facilities throughout the region. Weber will officially receive the honor in a ceremony in Paris on October 16.
The recipients of this year’s Hnatyshyn Foundation visual arts awards have been announced. Artist Marcel Dzama, of Winnipeg, has won the $25,000 prize for outstanding achievement by a Canadian artist, while Marie-Josee Jean, general and artistic director of VOX centre de l’image contemporaine, has won the $15,000 award for curatorial excellence in contemporary art. Dzama, who lives and works in Brooklyn, was recently given a survey at the Musee d’art contemporain in Montreal; a monograph of his work will be published by Abrams this fall. In addition to directing VOX, Jean teaches at the Universite du Quebec in Montreal and the Universite Laval in Quebec City. She has curated exhibitions at venues such as the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec, the Casino Luxembourg-Forum d'art contemporain, the Centre d’art Santa Monica in Barcelona, the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam, the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Germany, and the Villa Arson, Centre national d’art contemporain in Nice.
The Hnatyshyn Foundation has given a total of $305,000 to artists and curators since 2006.
The city of Detroit has hired Christie’s to appraise part of the city-owned art collection held by the Detroit Institute of Arts, reports Graham Bowley of the New York Times. The collection is valued at upwards of $17 billion, and officials have proposed selling its artworks to settle the city’s debts. Whether or not this will actually happen has yet to be determined; city officials note that the move to hire Christie’s is part of a larger effort to evaluate all the city’s assets, while museum officials contend that the collection is not for sale.
Said the auction house in a statement: “Christie’s was asked to assist due to our expertise in this area across all fine art categories and eras . . . . In addition we will also assist and advise on how to realize value for the city while leaving the art in the city’s ownership.” That said, Christie’s will only appraise works owned by the city and not bound by donor restrictions, which could possibly rule out a sale. The auction house will receive $200,000 for its services, to be paid by office of Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr. The appraisal is expected to be completed by mid-October.
Hamburg’s Kunsthalle has reason to celebrate: The museum just received a donation of nearly twenty million dollars from entrepreneur Alexander Otto, according to DPA. Calling the gift a “historic moment,” the kunsthalle’s director, Hubertus Gaßner, said that the money would be used to unite the institution’s three buildings into one whole. Construction will begin next year and end by 2015. Gaßner said that he hoped that the new planned building—with its renovated entrance hall and a central auditorium for lectures—would help the Hamburger Kunsthalle become one of Germany’s top five museums.
If the Kunsthalle in Osnabrück hasn’t quite hit the financial jackpot, it does have some fresh intellectual capital. Curator Julia Draganovic spoke with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on her new role, starting September 1, as the institution’s director. She spoke about her aim of making the Kunsthalle “more visible,” in part by raising its profile on the Internet. And while Draganovic is working with the challenges of a limited budget (just over $100,000) and outdated space (no air conditioning in the building) she outlined a plan to attract new partners and sponsors for her exhibition program. Contemporary art is “not just for experts and rich people,” emphasized Draganovic. “Art reaches all of us.”
Halfway around the world, the Inhotim Institute has also named a new executive director: Antonio Grassi. ArtNexus reports that Grassi will leave his current post as president of Funarte, a department of Brazil’s ministry of culture, to take up his new job. “I was called to bring new ideas for programming and special projects at Inhotim,” he told O’Globo Cultura. Apparently his role will come with its share of commercial concerns, so to speak, now that Inhotim plans to open a hotel on site. “With the opening of [the] hotel,” he said, “we will have an intense nighttime program. I want to bring dance, drama, music, as well as audiovisual projects.” Grassi has been responsible for coordinating the Year of Brazil in Portugal, Brazil’s participation in the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, and the renovation of São Paulo’s Teatro Brasileiro de Comédia, among other projects.
The two members of Pussy Riot who were sentenced have both been denied parole, according to the blog of Baibakov Art Projects. Maria Alyokina reportedly didn’t meet parole requirements because she had failed to make her bed properly and refused to wear a head scarf at work, among other violations, while Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been denied parole on even more dubious grounds: She refused to participate in the Miss Charm pageant. “The time I served in prison has done nothing for my correction, therefore I see no sense in keeping me behind bars,” she said at her hearing. In addition, according to Monopol, Alyokina has allegedly quarreled so disruptively with guards and inmates that she has been transferred to a new detention center. The twenty-five-year-old activist was most recently involved in an in-prison protest against the detention conditions, after having staged an eleven-day hunger strike when she was banned from appearing in court.
Caroline Douglas has been named director of the Contemporary Art Society in London. She is currently the head of the Arts Council Collection, a role she assumed in 2006. Over the past seven years, she secured major acquisitions for the institution, which has the largest loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world, including works by Jeremy Deller, Gary Hume, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Grayson Perry. Said chairman Mark Stephens: “On behalf of the Contemporary Art Society and its board of trustees, we are absolutely thrilled that Caroline Douglas has agreed to join us as director at such a pivotal time for the Contemporary Art Society, a year on from the launch of our new public program and our first ever permanent exhibition space. She brings with her a quite outstanding track record in developing contemporary collections in addition to curating exhibitions for the benefit of public audiences, which is at the heart of the Contemporary Art Society’s mission.”
The Oceanside Museum of Art has received a $150,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation, reports James Chute of U-T San Diego. The funds will endow a series of interactive and public artist-in-residence programs that will bring art to a number of locations throughout San Diego, primarily within North San Diego County. Chute writes that the museum intends to produce five projects dealing with several “key socioeconomic factors that define Oceanside: military, beaches/tourism, retail, and transportation.” Said director Daniel Foster: “We are so appreciative of the James Irvine Foundation’s continued and deep partnership with the museum, which now amounts to $800,000 of financial support over the past seven years.”