March 9, 2014

International News Digest


Saudi Arabia will be getting its first contemporary art museum, Beyt Jameel, according to the AMA. Last month, the philanthropic arm of the conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel—known for its automotive and real estate investments—announced plans to build the museum north of Jeddah. The building will include an open-air exhibition space, as well as a gallery devoted to exhibiting work by the winner of the Jameel Prize, which is awarded at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The 75,000-square-foot museum will cost $27 million to complete, and will be built with the aim of supporting and promoting Saudi Arabian artists while also being a site for international exhibitions.

Bernd Leifeld will soon be retiring from his post as CEO of Documenta. Leifeld’s position’s being filled by Annette Kulenkampff, who’s directed the art-publishing venture Hatje Cantz for over a decade, reports the German-language magazine Art. The mayor of Kassel, Bertram Hilgen, praised the appointment, saying, “Annette Kulenkampff has an international network in the art world at her command.” According to, Leifeld will officially be replaced by Kulenkampff on July 1.

The collector Egidio Marzona has given the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation a gift of 372 works from his collection, which includes pieces by Daniel Buren, Jan Dibbet, Hamish Fulton, Richard Long, Gary Kuehn, and Mel Bochner. According to Die Zeit, Marzona had previously loaned the works to the museum. “I’m glad I can bring closure to my responsibility to art . . . through this donation,” said Marzona in Die Zeit. “Gift-giving is an art, but art-giving is a special kind of art,” wrote Ingeborg Ruthe in the Berliner Zeitung, adding that this is the result of “decades of obsessive collecting from auctions, galleries, and artists studios.”

“It's increasingly difficult to see modern art in Berlin,” pronounced the Berlin Morgenpost’s Gabriela Walde, who concludes that the heated debate over the destination of the city’s old-masters collection is eclipsing the fact that Berlin’s modern art museums are in the midst of “crisis.” “Several museums in Berlin are plagued by structural defects,” noted Walde, who pointed out that the Berggruen collection closed its extension after a mold infestation was discovered in its roof, and that the Berlinische Galerie will close in July so that its ceilings can be torn out for the sprinkler system to be renovated. Currently, the latter is expected to reopen in January 2015, but director Thomas Köhler has stretched that deadline to March, to be on the safe side. (Köhler noted that the institution would also have to cut back on spending to make up for losses during its shutdown.) It would be “too embarrassing,” wrote Walde, if the museum’s doors are closed for most of its fortieth-year anniversary in 2015.

Jörg Mandernach is the first winner of the Hannes Burgdorf Prize for contemporary visual art, according to the Stuttgarter Nachrichten. The $14,000 prize is given to an artist every three years. Mandernach’s multimedia output includes room drawings, works on paper, and hot-wax painting, but also musical performance.

March 8, 2014

Rose Finn-Kelcey (1945–2014)

Artist Rose Finn-Kelcey has passed away, reports Guy Brett in The Guardian. “Finn-Kelcey belonged to the generation that was caught up in the feminism of the 1960s and ‘70s,” wrote Brett, who adds that she soon “set out to find her individual voice, both as an artist and a woman.” One of her best-known works, Bureau de Change, 1987, recreated Van Gogh’s sunflowers out of coins, a comment on the Yasuda Insurance Company’s purchase of the masterpiece. She staged solo installations at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and at the Camden Arts Center, and her work was included in group shows at Tate Britain and the Hayward Gallery, both in London; and the New Museum in New York.

March 7, 2014

Sydney Biennale Chairman Quits over Festival’s Detention-Center Link

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis has resigned as chairman of the Sydney Biennale, according to Michael Safi and Paul Farrell in The Guardian. His move follows a statement issued by thirty-seven participating artists who encouraged the festival to examine its ties to sponsor Transfield, a contractor which operated detention centers accused of mismanagement and human rights abuses. A number of the signatories even withdrew their artwork from the event. “I wear two hats: one as chair of the Biennale of Sydney and the other as a director of Transfield Holdings; both organizations conceived by my father and nurtured by my family over many decades,” said Belgiorno-Nettis in a statement. “I learned that some international government agencies are beginning to question the decision of the Biennale’s board to stand by Transfield. Biennale staff have been verbally abused with taunts of ‘blood on your hands.’ I have been personally vilified with insults, which I regard as naive and offensive. This situation is entirely unfair—especially when directed towards our dedicated biennale team who give so much of themselves.”

March 7, 2014

Caroline Goeser Joins Museum of Fine Arts Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston has announced the appointment of Caroline Goeser as head of its department of learning and interpretation, reports Steven Litt of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Goeser will also head the museum’s Glassell School of Art. Previously the head of education at the Cleveland Museum of Art and a tenured professor in the University of Houston, Goeser was born in Berkeley, California and holds a doctorate in art history from Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She begins her new post in April.

March 6, 2014

Carla Accardi (1924–2014)

Artist Carla Accardi has passed away, reports Carlo Alberto Bucci in La Repubblica. Accardi moved to Rome in 1946, and, with various other artists—including her husband Antonio Sanfilippo—formed the Marxist-inspired Gruppo Forma 1 a year later. In 1970, she also cofounded the Rivolta Femminile group with fellow feminists Elvira Banotti and Carla Lonzi. She was named a member of the Accademia di Brera in 1996.

March 4, 2014

Robert Ashley (1930–2014)

Composer Robert Ashley has died at the age of eighty-three. Considered a forerunner of the audio synthesis movement and known for his disruptive reinvention of the operatic form—fusing electronic music into theater and operas—Ashley had a prolific career, with a list of works dating back to 1957. He cofounded the Sonic Arts Union with Gordon Mumma in 1958, a collective featuring composers like Alvin Lucier and David Behrman, and in 1964, produced the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor, where he presented the first mixed-media operas. He was awarded the 2002 John Cage Award for Music and his work will be featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. His death was confirmed by his biographer Kyle Gann in a blog post on Ashley’s website. Wrote Gann: “Bob was one of the most amazing composers of the twentieth century, and the greatest genius of twentieth-century opera. I don’t know how long it’s going to take the world to recognize that.”

March 4, 2014

Cleveland Museum Begins Multimillion-Dollar Diversity Initiative

Steven Litt reports in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that the Cleveland Museum of Art will devote a large portion of a recent $10 million gift to diversify “an audience traditionally dominated by middle-class whites,” by launching programs aimed at community engagement. The museum couldn’t announce the full price tag for this initiative—but said it runs into the millions—because the remaining amount was used to purchase ninety-five Indian paintings, and the museum doesn’t disclose what it pays for works in private sales. Bidwell said he hoped the city’s diverse communities would tell the museum how it could better serve them. “A lot of the work of community engagement is the outreach, the listening part, and that’s what’s different,” said Fred Bidwell, the museum’s interim director.

March 3, 2014

Norman Yonemoto (1946–2014)

Artist Norman Yonemoto has died. Born in 1946, Yonemoto studied film at Santa Clara University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the American Film Institute, Los Angeles, where he earned his MFA in 1972. He cofounded the production company KYO-DAI with his brother, Bruce, in 1976. In 1999, the first retrospective of their collaborative work was exhibited at the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. The artist duo has been awarded, among others, a media arts fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, a production grant and a visual arts fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Phelan award for video art/docu-drama. Their work has been shown internationally and belong in the collections of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

March 3, 2014

Director of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to Retire

Malcolm Rogers, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has announced that he will retire as soon as the museum’s board names his successor, reports Carol Vogel of the New York Times. Rogers, who has been at the museum for nineteen years, is the longest-serving director in the institution’s history. During his tenure, he increased museum attendance by over 200,000 visitors per year and grew the endowment from $180 million to $602 million. The museum itself also expanded in size during Rogers’s time: Ninety-seven of its galleries have been either expanded or renovated, including the museum’s American wing, which alone increased the museum’s size by 28 percent. Rogers recently turned down a contract that would have extended his role at the museum until 2018.