December 2, 2016

Putin Promises to Halt Censorship of Artists in Russia

Valdimir V. Putin

On Friday, December 2, President Vladimir Putin met with film directors and artists and vowed that he would protect artistic freedom in Russia, Andrew E. Kramer of the New York Times reports. Putin called any interference with theater or exhibitions “absolutely inadmissible.”

During the same meeting, the Russian leader said that he agreed with a court ruling that sentenced Ukrainian director Oleh Sentsov to twenty years in jail in Siberia. Putin claimed that the Sentsov was not imprisoned because of his films but for “in fact dedicating his life to terrorist activities.”

Artists appealed to Putin about their concerns relating to the power of conservative groups and recently censored arts shows, including the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography’s decision to shut down an exhibition by US photographer Jock Sturges and a theater in Omsk’s cancelation of a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” both of which were protested by right-wing groups.

Putin defended the religious rock musical and said that it should not have been canceled, but he also said that as artists they have a responsibility to not offend people’s religions. He cited the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the deaths of twelve people, as why it is important to “not split the society.”

December 2, 2016

Zachary Cahill Named Curator at University of Chicago’s Gray Center

Zachary Cahill

The University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry has announced that artist Zachary Cahill has been appointed as the institution’s new curator. Cahill will be responsible for developing a range of partnerships between artists, scholars, and the community, cultivating Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships, and ensuring that the center continues to be a place of creative experimentation.

For the past several years, Cahill has worked with the university to produce arts programming. From 2007 to 2016, he served as the open practice committee coordinator and as a lecturer in the department of visual arts.

Since 2009, Cahill has been working on a long-term exhibition-based project, “USSA,” that explores concepts of nation building. His artwork has been featured in solos shows at numerous institutions, including the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. He also recently participated in the group show “Broken Flag” at Iceberg Projects in Chicago and the Goethe Institut’s Kultursymposium in Weimar. A widely published author, Cahill has been featured in Afterall, Artforum, The Exhibitionist, Frieze, and Mousse. He earned his BFA in sculpture from Cornell University in 1995 and his MFA from the University of Chicago in 2007.

December 2, 2016

Ousmane Sow (1935–2016)

Ousmane Sow

Sculptor Ousmane Sow, known as the Auguste Rodin of Senegal for his large-scale sculptures of Africans, died in Dakar today at the age of eighty-one, William Grimes of the New York Times reports. He was the first African artist elected as a foreign associate member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France.

Born in Dakar in 1935, Sow traveled to France in 1957 and earned a degree in nursing. He worked as a physical therapist for the majority of his life, acquiring an intimate knowledge of the human body. He returned to Senegal shortly after it gained independence in 1960 and planned to continue his practice as a therapist, but he gave it up in his fifties to become a full-time sculptor.

Inspired by German photographer Leni Riefenstah’s works, Sow’s sculptures of African peoples, including the Masai, Zulus, and Fulanis, as well as Nuban wrestlers, have been widely exhibited. He participated in Documenta in 1993 and the Venice Biennale in 1995. Many of his works feature heroic figures from history, including his installation of the Battle of Little Bighorn, which was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2003, and his Toussaint l’Ouverture and the Old Slave, a seven-foot-tall sculpture of an eighteenth-century Haitian revolutionary that was presented in “African Mosaic” at the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC in 2011. The National Museum of African Art’s director Johnnetta Cole described the work as “our Mona Lisa.”

December 2, 2016

Shanghai Removes Sculptures After UK Artist Claims Plagiarism

Wendy Taylor, Timepiece, 1972–1973.

Three sculptures installed in a park in Shanghai have been dismantled after UK artist Wendy Taylor claimed that one of the works was a copy of her sundial sculpture, located on the banks of the River Thames in London, AFP reports.

Taylor’s Timepiece, 1972–73, was created as a local tribute to dock workers in London. The look-alike, which landowners Shenjiang Co. admitted was a copy by an unnamed artist, was erected in 2006. Taylor was made aware of the Chinese sculpture after a tourist asked her if she was the artist who had created it.

“At first I just couldn’t believe it, then I was totally shocked and upset,” Taylor told The Telegraph. “I am obviously extremely pleased that the sculpture is going to be removed and hopefully destroyed.”

December 2, 2016

Protesters Call on South African Gallery to Remove Artwork by Artist Accused of Murder

Zwelethu Mthethwa

According to The Citizen, the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce is outraged by Iziko South African National Gallery’s decision to display the work of Zwelethu Mthethwa—a photographer who is currently on trial for allegedly killing the twenty-three-year-old sex worker Nokuphila Moudy Kumalo in 2013—in an exhibition intended to celebrate women.

Protesters are calling for the removal of the work from the show “Our Lady,” which coincides with Sixteen Days of Activism—a campaign to raise awareness about the high rate of violent crimes against women and children. In a letter to the museum, human rights and advocacy manager Ishtar Lakhani said, “In their attempt to ‘celebrate empowered female capacity and artworks that counter and contextualize the current status quo’ the National Gallery has in fact served to prioritize the notoriety of the accused rather than respect for the victim, Nokupila Moudy Kumalo.”

The group suggested replacing Untitled (from Hope Chest Series), 2012—Mthethwa’s photograph of a woman sitting on a large wooden box that belongs to a series of works exploring the relationship between women and their dowries—with a painting of Kumalo by local artist Astrid Warren.

December 2, 2016

Nam June Paik’s Nephew Donates $1 Million to Harvard Art Museums

Nam June Paik

The Harvard Art Museums has announced that it has received a $1 million gift as well as ten of Paik’s works from business school alumnus Ken Hakuta, the nephew of pioneering video artist Nam June Paik.

Director Martha Tedeschi said, “Ken Hakuta is dedicated to the legacy of his uncle, Nam June Paik, and the important contributions he made to contemporary art. Ken’s generous support will lead to groundbreaking scholarship that will benefit students and scholars around the world.”

The gift will establish the Hakuta Family Endowment Fund, which will support a two-year Nam June Paik Fellowship for the advancement of scholarship and research on the artist’s contributions to twentieth-century art. Hakuta said, “Nam June Paik was a real renaissance man. He was a global thinker, media visionary, composer, writer, video artist, painter, sculptor, performer, engineer, television producer, and much more; the research topics on Paik, including the conservation of Paik video art, are limitless.” He added, “I could not be more pleased that the Harvard Art Museums will be the center of Nam June Paik research for generations to come, working with other institutions globally with an interest in Paik and, most importantly, educating the next generation of scholars.”

December 2, 2016

John M. Miller (1939–2016)

Installation view of John M. Miller’s “Yesterdays” at Margo Leaving Gallery.

Artist John M. Miller, best known for his geometric abstract art and compositions of repeating angled, colored bars on unprimed canvases, has died in West Los Angeles at the age of seventy-seven, Christopher Knight of the LA Times reports.

In the February 2012 issue of Artforum, Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer writes: “For being abstract, these works—terse and dry, yet richly associative and redolent—picture so much. Absorbed into the fabric ground, Miller’s repeating, ever-expanding pattern doubles painting as printed textile and suggests that the canvas be experienced like freshly pressed linen, a stretched and tucked bedsheet to get wrapped up in.”

She adds, “But beyond the referentiality of his geometric abstractions, what’s most dizzying about Miller’s paintings is the exuberant, ecstatic, unrelenting single-mindedness with which he has produced them, mantralike, for nearly four decades. And increasingly, it seems that the paintings aren’t so abstract after all, but rather are quite literal indexes of the persistence and mania that is their impetus. Ultimately, the artist’s labor and conviction in pattern—as an aesthetic mode and template for existence—are his real subjects.”

December 1, 2016

Hirshhorn Names Mark Beasley as Inaugural Curator of Media and Performance Art

Mark Beasley

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden announced today that Mark Beasley, a former curator and producer at Creative Time in New York, has been appointed as the institution’s first curator of media and performance art. Beasley will be responsible for organizing exhibitions and acquiring works for the museum’s collection of new-media art, including film, video, and performance.

Director Melissa Chiu said, “As one of the first contemporary art museums in the country to place significant resources around the acquisition of new-media artwork, we are proud to further that commitment by establishing a full-time curatorial position dedicated to this emerging and rapidly evolving genre of art.” She added, “Mark Beasley is one of the few experts of his kind, and as one of the leading curators of our time, his work has helped to shape this field over the past fifteen years.”

Previously, Beasley served as a curator for Performa, the British Council in London, and Creative Time. He has also worked as a curatorial advisor to the inaugural Okayama Art Summit in 2016, as a guest curator for the Sunday Sessions Greater New York performance program at MoMA PS1, and as a curator of a series of performances held in conjunction with the Mike Kelley retrospective at MoMA PS1 in 2011.

December 1, 2016

Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Announces 2016 Writing Grant Recipients

Grant winner Jeanne Vaccaro

The Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation has announced the 2016 recipients of its Arts Writers Grant program. Twenty writers have been awarded a total of $695,000. Established to create a broader audience for arts writing, the program aims to ensure that critical writing remains a valued mode of engaging the visual arts.

Ranging from $15,000 to $50,000, the grants support four categories of contemporary art writing: articles, blogs, books, and short-form works.

The winners are: