June 11, 2017

Agnes Gund Sells Lichtenstein Canvas to Start Fund for Criminal Justice

Roy Lichtenstein, Masterpiece, 1962. Photo: Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Arts patron Agnes Gund has sold a prized Roy Lichtenstein painting to advance criminal justice reform and is challenging other collectors to follow her example.

According to Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times, Gund parted with Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece, 1962, which hung over the mantel of her Upper East Side apartment, in order to establish the Art for Justice Fund. Collector Steven A. Cohen bought the piece for $165 million—one of the fifteen highest known bids for a work of art—through Acquavella Galleries in January. One hundred million dollars from the proceeds from the sale will support the fund, which aims to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.

“This is one thing I can do before I die,” Gund said. “This is what I need to do.” The collector’s campaign for social justice was partially inspired by recent police shootings of unarmed African American teenagers as well as by contemporary works that have shed light on the obstacles facing black communities today, such as Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010) and Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th (2016). On a personal level, Gund was motivated by her concern for her six African American grandchildren.

June 9, 2017

Inaugural Kuala Lumpur Biennale to Open in November

John Ishak, chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Biennale; Mohamed Najib Ahmad Dawa, director general of the National Art Development Board in Malaysia; and Zanita Binti Anuar, director of the Kuala Lumpur Biennale, at a press conference on May 19. Photo: Kuala Lumpur Biennale.

The National Visual Arts Gallery (NVAG) of Malaysia is organizing Kuala Lumpur’s first-ever biennial, Sonia Yu of ArtAsiaPacific reports. The contemporary art event is one of several new biennials that will launch in 2018, including the Bangkok Biennale and the Riga International Biennial.

Artists from Malaysia and other countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as China, South Korea, Japan, and India, will be invited to exhibit work that addresses the five themes of love: love for nature, love for heritage, love for people, love for animals, and love for icons. The biennial will be held at various venues across the city, including the Kuala Lumpur City Center and National Blood Center, and will run from November 1 to March 31, 2018.

Johan Ishak, chairman of biennial, said, “The Kuala Lumpur Biennale will change our way of experiencing art. Not to revere, but to rejoice in the narrative presented by unsung heroes, conservationists, architects, art activists, practitioners, and various other personalities.”

June 9, 2017

LACMA Launches Kickstarter Campaign to Bring Guatemalan Museum to US

Installation view of “Paisaje Sonoro” by Joaquín Orellana at Nuevo Museo de Art Contemporáneo in Guatemala City, 2016. Photo: Nuevo Museo de Art Contemporáneo

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is planning to bring a replica of Guatemala City’s only contemporary art museum—an egg-shaped building that can only accommodate four people at a time—to the United States through crowdfunding.

The institution launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund building a reproduction of the Nuevo Museo de Art Contemporáneo and taking it on a three-thousand-mile journey over the course of two weeks, during which the portable museum will visit creative communities in Guatemala, Mexico, Texas, and California. LACMA has already raised more than $14,000 of its $75,000 goal.

Founded by artists Jessica Kairé and Stefan Benchoam in 2012, the micro-museum is an exhibition venue, which features works by artists hailing from all over Latin America, as well as a space for public programs and community dinners.

June 9, 2017

Roma Artists to Open Cultural Institute in Berlin

Timea Junghaus, head of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture. Photo: Akos Stiller

The Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, the first institution dedicated to the culture of the Roma people—the largest minority in Europe—was officially launched at the German foreign ministry in Berlin on Thursday, June 8, Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper reports.

Spearheading the initiative is Tímea Junghaus, a Hungarian Roma artist who stressed the importance of Roma people being recognized by mainstream society. Currently, only two Roma artists are represented in collections of European museums. The minority group achieved a major milestone in 2007 when the Venice Biennale permitted the first Roma pavilion. “It was a very important time in the Roma discourse. It was the first year theoreticians began to write about the economic and cultural aspects of Roma life through critical theory,” Junghaus said.

While the institute won’t open a physical location until September, it celebrated the triumph with an exhibition of Roma artists from eight countries. Among those exhibiting are Tibor Balogh, the first Roma artist to have graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, and Erika Varga, the founder of Hungary’s first Roma design studio. The institute will receive financial support from the Council of Europe, philanthropist George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, and the German government.

June 9, 2017

Zwelethu Mthethwa Sentenced to Eighteen Years in Prison for Murdering Sex Worker

Members of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) celebrate the sentencing of Zwelethu Mthethwa outside the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday. Photo: Ashleigh Furlong

South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa, who was convicted of beating the twenty-three-year-old sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo to death in April 2013, was sentenced to eighteen years in prison at Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, June 7, Ashleigh Furlong of Ground Up reports. “The court needs to send a clear message to the community and all would-be criminals that violence against women will not be tolerated,” said Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath.

Mthethwa has maintained his innocence since the beginning of the trial nearly four years ago but chose not to testify in court. While his car was placed at the scene of the crime in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town, by CCTV footage, Mthethwa’s psychiatrist took the stand to declare that the artist was under the influence of alcohol and did not recall any of the events that took place that night.

The minimum sentence for the crime of murder with intent in the form of dolus eventualis—meaning the perpetrator’s objective awareness that his actions would result in the death of an individual—is fifteen years. In response to the defense’s argument that Mthethwa should not serve time because he is unlikely to become a repeat offender and he will not be able to contribute to society, the judge said that Mthethwa’s reputation as a well-known photographer, whose striking portraits of South Africans have been exhibited internationally, “does not earn the accused a special sentence.”

June 8, 2017

Hemma Schmutz to Lead Austria’s Lentos Kunstmuseum and Nordico Stadtmuseum

Hemma Schmutz

Following an international search, Hemma Schmutz has been appointed director of Linz’s Lentos Kunstmuseum, Austria’s most celebrated museum of modern and contemporary art, and the Nordico Stadtmuseumin, which houses cultural and art objects mainly related to the history of Upper Austria’s capital. Schmutz succeeds Stella Rollig, who was named the new artistic director of Vienna’s Belvedere Museum last October.

According to Monopol, Schmutz has announced plans to redefine both museums’ brands. She said that while the Lentos has an outstanding collection, it is “unusual for the institution to house both nineteenth- and twentieth-century works.” For Schmutz, developing the museum’s identity will be essential to building its international audience. In 2016, the institution welcomed fifty thousand visitors, about five thousand fewer than the previous year. “At only fourteen years old, the Lentos is a very young museum,” Schmutz said, adding, “We need to sell ourselves better.” With her new five-year contract, she intends to attract more of a national and international audience, initiate collaborations with other cultural institutions, and make the museums more visible by “breaking down institutional barriers” and treating them as “open houses,” inviting artists and the public to use the spaces for projects.

To mark the one hundredth anniversary of the deaths of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Koloman Moser, the Lentos will present the three artists’ works accompanied by new historical research in an exhibition scheduled for 2018. Schmutz is also organizing fiftieth-anniversary exhibitions on the student and labor unrest in Western Europe in 1968 as well as the end of the Prague Spring at the Nordico Stadtmuseumin.

June 8, 2017

Astha Butail Named BMW Art Journey Award Winner

Astha Butail

Art Basel and BMW have announced that Indian artist Astha Butail has been selected as the next BMW Art Journey Award winner. Butail was recognized for her project “In the Absence of Writing,” which she describes as “an homage to the intangible oral traditions that are still alive today.” The short-listed artists from the Discoveries section for emerging artists at the 2017 Art Basel show in Hong Kong were the Berlin-based Julian Charrière and the Beijing-based Lin Ke.

For her BMW Art Journey, Butail plans to investigate the Zoroastrian Avesta, Jewish oral Torah, and Indian Veda traditions by experiencing and recording their different memory techniques as well as interviewing scholars and practitioners of each tradition. She will travel to the cities of Yazd, Iran; Jerusalem; London; and Varanasi, Pune, New Delhi, and Mumbai, in India.

The jury consisted of Claire Hsu, director of the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong; Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale; Matthias Mühling, director of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau in Munich; Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art and senior advisor of global arts at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; and Pauline J. Yao, curator of visual art at M+ in Hong Kong.

June 8, 2017

Artadia Names 2017 Houston Award Winners

Regina Agu

Artadia announced today that Regina Agu and Kaneem Smith have been named the winners of the 2017 Houston Artadia Awards. Both artists will receive $10,000 in unrestricted funds. This is Artadia’s eighth Houston edition of the prize, which was open to all visual artists who have been based in Harris County, Texas, for two years or more.

“Regina Agu and Kaneem Smith represent two dynamic women working in different mediums, but both are very focused and articulated the vision of their work with grace and passion,” juror Ryan N. Dennis, public art director and curator of Project Row Houses in Houston, said. “Regina, an artist that has a collaborative spirit, is informed by deep research and presents text-based work along with collage and photography, and is weaving narratives together in a refreshing way. Kaneem, who moves between sculpture and fiber works, pushes the viewer to think about African American history and the Diaspora poetically and powerfully. I could not be more thrilled to award these two artists and look forward to seeing what they accomplish with this support.”

The jury also included Claire Gilman, senior curator of the Drawing Center in New York, and Los Angeles–based artist Ryan Trecartin. Together with Dennis, they selected five finalists: Regina Agu, Catherine Colangelo, Gabriel Martinez, Kaneem Smith, and Sarah Welch. In the second round of the judging process, Evan Garza, director of Rice Public Art at Rice University, and Dennis conducted studio visits with the artists before selecting the winners.

June 8, 2017

Hauser & Wirth to Represent Fondazione Piero Manzoni

Piero Manzoni. Photo: Ole Bagger

The Fondazione Piero Manzoni in Milan has announced that Hauser & Wirth gallery will represent the estate of the late Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni, who is best known for projects that challenged the nature of the art object, such as “Artist's Shit (Merda d'artista),” 1961, a series of works for which he filled tins with his own excrement, dried naturally and “canned with no added preservatives.”

Manzoni had a brief but influential career, which ended with his untimely death from a heart attack in 1963, at the age of twenty-nine. In the May 1998 issue of Artforum, Barry Schwabsky reviewed the artist’s exhibition at Serpentine Gallery, writing that Manzoni “covered more territory—not without false steps—in six years than most do in sixty, and artists are still sorting out the implications of his work.” He continued: “Manzoni never wanted to address any but the most fundamental questions of art—in the first instance, its material condition, and thereafter the object’s function as a locus of exchange between artist and public, an exchange whose objective, economic appearance is as important as its subjective essence.”