October 1, 2016

The Met Faces Lawsuit over Picasso Painting

Pablo Picasso,The Actor, 1904–5

On Friday, September 30, the estate of Paul Leffmann, a German-Jewish businessman, filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art over Pablo Picasso’s The Actor, 1904–5. The lawyers representing the estate claim that Leffmann was forced to sell the work for a low price when he fled from the Nazis during World War II, Graham Bowley of the New York Times reports.

According to the complaint, Leffmann, who sold his home and businesses in Cologne before he left Germany with his family in 1937, was under duress when he sold the work, estimated to be worth more than $100 million, to Paris art dealers Hugo Perls and Paul Rosenberg for $13,200.

The lawyers said that that they have been negotiating with the museum for several years and decided to sue when they failed to reach a settlement. They claim that the Met “did not disclose or should have known that the painting had been owned by a Jewish refugee, Paul Leffmann, who had disposed of the work only because of Nazi and Fascist persecution.” The institution’s provenance information for the canvas indicated that it was owned by an unknown German collector, which the Met updated in 2011.

The museum responded to these allegations in a statement saying that it bought the work in 1938 in good faith. It claims that the sum of money the Leffmanns received for the work was “a higher price than any other early Picasso sold by a collector to a dealer during the 1930s.”

After the war, the Leffmans did not try to reclaim the painting. Alice Leffmann, a great-grandniece of Paul and his wife, Alice, contacted the museum about the work roughly ten years ago.

September 30, 2016

Shirley Jaffe (1923–2016)

Shirley Jaffe

Shirley Jaffe, a New Jersey–born abstract painter who lived and worked in France for more than sixty years, died on Thursday, September 29, in Louveciennes at the age of ninety-three.

Jaffe earned a bachelor’s degree from Cooper Union in New York and studied at the Phillips Art School in Washington, DC, before she moved to France in 1949. She created paintings that were often influenced by Abstract Expressionism, but she later adopted a more geometric style. For Jaffe, this shift began after a trip to Berlin in the 1960s. She told BOMB magazine that she began to feel as if her paintings were being read as landscapes. “And that wasn’t my intention. I don’t think I was terribly clear about what my intention was, but I knew it wasn’t landscape. At any rate, I was reworking gestural painting and it seemed wrong.”

According to Nathalie Obadia Gallery, a French gallery who represented Jaffe since 1999, she was “considered one of the most influential painters in contemporary abstract art” and “caught the attention of artists from younger generations, such as Jessica Stockholder and Bernard Piffaretti.”

In a 1990 issue of Artforum, Donald Kuspit wrote about Jaffe’s first US solo exhibition, which took place at Holly Solomon Gallery when she was sixty years old: “The brightness of color, the diversity of unresolved, quirky shapes on the canvas, and the tendency toward quick, succinct statement suggest a determination to remain innocent, perhaps to make a kind of sophistication or cult out of innocence.” Kuspit also compares Jaffe’s works to Henri Matisse’s cutouts: “Her shapes are the product of a similar process of essentialization, and her colors seem derived directly from those of Matisse, even seem to be a play on them.”

Jaffe’s works are in the permanent collections of numerous institutions, including New York’s MoMA, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and the Centre Pompidou.

September 30, 2016

Portuguese Government to Keep 85 State-Owned Works by Joan Miró

Maternité by Joan Miró

Portugal’s government has announced that it plans to keep a state-owned collection of Joan Miró works, The Guardian reports. In 2014, the works were put up for auction at Christie’s London, creating a national controversy. Due to the public outcry, they were withdrawn before the sale.

The government had decided to sell the works in order to lessen the state’s debt. It hoped to make at least $50 million from the sale. The plan was fiercely criticized by politicians, museum directors, and other cultural figures who claimed that the collection was part of the nation’s heritage and should not leave the country. The government was forced to withdraw the works after a judge determined that the proper exportation documentation was not obtained in order to send the works to London.

At a press conference, Portugal’s prime minister António Costa said that the works will stay in the city of Porto. They will be on display at the city’s Serralves museum until January 28.

September 30, 2016

David Adjaye and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Join Serpentine Gallery as Board Members

David Adjaye and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

During their first joint press conference at Serpentine Gallery, CEO Yana Peel, who succeeded director Julia Peyton-Jones in April, and longtime artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist have announced that architect David Adjaye, whose projects include the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye have been elected board members.

Peel and Obrist said that the appointments as well as new programming are part of the organization’s new direction in which greater emphasis is placed on artists. The Serpentine Pavilion program will also reflect the gallery’s new focus. Adjaye, along with Richard Rogers, will assist Peel and Obrist with the selection of the architects for 2017 as part of the newly formed advisory committee.

September 30, 2016

Italian Authorities Recover Van Gogh Paintings Stolen 14 Years Ago

Vincent Van Gogh, Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, 1884–85

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has announced that the Italian police have recovered two Vincent van Gogh paintings that were stolen from the institution in 2002.

The Guardia di Finanza, an agency primarily responsible for suppressing the drug trade in Italy, seized the works while carrying out an operation in Naples earlier this week. The paintings, which have a combined worth of $100 million, were found wrapped in cloth in fairly good condition.

According to the museum, Seascape at Scheveningen, 1882, is one of only two seascapes that Van Gogh painted while in the Netherlands. Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, 1884–85, is a biographical work depicting the church where the artist’s father was a minister. After his father died, van Gogh modified the work by adding churchgoers in the foreground, including women wearing shawls symbolizing mourning.

September 30, 2016

Centre Pompidou to Open New Museum in Brussels

The former Citroën building will house the new modern and contemporary art museum.

The Centre Pompidou has announced that it is partnering with Brussels to open a new modern and contemporary art museum there by 2020.

Serge Lasvignes, the president of the Paris museum, and Rudi Vervoort, the minister-president of the government of the Brussels-Capital Region comprising nineteen municipalities, signed a memorandum on September 29 outlining their plans to transform a former Citroën building into “a cultural hub.”

The Centre Pompidou has agreed to loan artworks from its collection of 120,000 words, advise the new institution on acquisitions strategies, and collaborate on programming. The first exhibition will be presented in 2018.

According to the various scenarios projected by the Brussels-Capital Region, the Centre Pompidou satellite should attract between five hundred thousand and one million visitors annually. It is also expected to create roughly seventy-two direct jobs as well as between three hundred and six hundred indirect jobs.

An architectural design competition will be launched by the end of the year to “give a soul” to the building, Vervoot said. The name of the building has not yet been decided.

“This project provides a leverage to revitalize the whole area, by reconnecting both sides of the canal, but it is also destined to become the cultural flagship of the Brussels region,” Vervoort said. Located northwest of the city center, the museum will be situated across the canal from Molenbeek, a neighborhood that became known for having a high number of residents who became jihadists.

The idea to create a new contemporary and modern art museum was originally proposed in 2013.The government bought the 172,000-square-foot Art Deco garage from the French carmaker for about $23 million in 2015.

September 29, 2016

The Armory Show Names Nicole Berry Deputy Director

Nicole Berry

The Armory Show announced today that curator Nicole Berry has been appointed deputy director. She will be responsible for overseeing VIP and visitor relations as well as new curatorial initiatives and will take up the post in October.

“We are thrilled to welcome Nicole to our expanding team,” executive director Benjamin Genocchio said. “She brings a wealth of talent and experience that will further develop the Armory Show as a powerful platform for leading international galleries and collectors alike, further cementing our place as America’s preeminent art fair.”

Berry has served as deputy director of Expo Chicago since 2011. Previously, she founded Accessible Art, a company that provides advising and consulting services, in 2006. She is a former director of Nathan A. Bernstein Gallery and has worked at number of other galleries, including Vivian Horan Fine Art and James Goodman Gallery. Berry earned her bachelor’s degree from Colgate University and received a master’s degree in art history from the University of California, Davis.

September 29, 2016

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Votes to Change Diane Wilsey's Role from President to Board Chair

Diane Wilsey

The board members of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (comprising the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park) have agreed that Diane (Dede) Wilsey, the former CEO and president of the Fine Art Museums, will continue to have a leadership role despite allegations that she ousted the former chief financial officer for investigating her alleged mismanagement of the museums’ funds. She will stay on as board chair.

Wilsey was stripped of her title of CEO shortly after the museums reached a $2 million settlement with Michele Gutierrez to prevent a wrongful-termination lawsuit. According to Gutierrez, Wilsey had paid a retired employee $457,000 without permission from the board.

During a meeting held on September 27, the board members voted in favor of shifting Wilsey’s role at the museums from president to board chair and also elected Jack Calhoun and Carl Pascarella as vice chairs.

Max Hollein, who joined the museums as director in March, has taken over the responsibilities and title of CEO. He told the New York Times, “Now you have a clearer division between the operational side and the board side of the museums.” Yet, according to Wilsey, “absolutely nothing has changed.”

September 29, 2016

Nils Erik Gjerdevik (1962–2016)

Nils Erik Gjerdevik

Nils Erik Gjerdevik, a Danish painter, draftsmen, and ceramicist interested in color, architecture, and design, has died.

Born in Oslo, Norway, in 1962, Gjerdevik studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and taught at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.

Gjerdevik was commissioned to create public works by institutions such as the University of Copenhagen and the Opera House in Copenhagen. In 2001, he became a member of Den Frie Center for Contemporary Art, and in 2002, he was awarded the Eckersberg Medal.

During his three-decade career, Gjerdevik focused on creating nonfigurative and monochrome paintings often with grid-like compositions. His ceramic works referenced science fiction and often appeared to depict space stations and futuristic worlds.

Gjerdevik’s works are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Denmark; Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark; Bergen Art Museum, Norway; National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo; Danish and Norwegian Arts Councils; Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden; and Malmö Art Museum, Sweden.

In a statement, Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie said, “Aside from his professional qualities, he had an insatiable curiosity for culture of all kinds that he shared with his fellow colleagues, friends and acquaintances. He was always ready with a big smile, good humor, a bear hug, enthusiasm, and contagious lust for life.”