Monthly Archives: October 2016

Celebrating an important centennial

If you thought the Nordic and Baltic regions couldn’t get any busier in terms of art events, think again: Latvia has just joined the pack, and will launch the inaugural edition of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA) in June 2018.

RIBOCA is an initiative of the Riga Biennial Foundation, a commissioning body founded and directed by Agniya Mirgorodskaya with the aim of championing contemporary art in the region.

For each edition of the biennial, a significant proportion of the commissioned and participating artists will either have been born in, or live and work in, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

“Our exciting new commissions, in carefully selected sites, will make up over 50 percent of the works included, and a significant proportion of Baltic and Nordic artists will be represented,” Mirgorodskaya told artnet News.

Although the theme and curatorial concept of this first edition won’t be revealed until later this year, the Riga Biennial Foundation has announced that Katerina Gregos will be the chief curator.

In her curatorial work, the Greek-born curator, writer, and lecturer (and former artistic director of Art Brussels) often focuses on themes of human rights and personal histories of migration—issues that could also be featured in the inaugural edition of the Riga Biennial, as 2018 marks the centenary for the Restoration of Independence of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The Baltic region will mark the date with a series of cultural events, including the 13th Baltic Triennial which will coincide with RIBOCA.

“We are so delighted to finally announce our plans for the Riga Biennial. One of our primary objectives is to grow and diversify the audiences for international contemporary art—and that the biennial is sensitive to its location in Riga,” Mirgorodskaya told artnet News.

Kirchner Painting Stays in German Museum

The German government has intervened to provide $1.28 million to the Wilhelm Hack Museum in Ludwigshafen so that the institution could buy back The Judgement of Paris, a Nazi-looted Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting stolen from the Hess family during World War II, Reuters reports.

The painting originally comes from the collection of Alfred Hess, a Jewish shoe-manufacturer who died in 1931. Following Hitler’s rise to power, Hess’s wife, Tekla, was forced to store several of the family’s paintings in the Cologne Art Association in 1937 before fleeing to the UK in 1939. After the war’s end, Hess was told that the paintings she had attempted to save were destroyed.

Such was not the case: many of them had been looted, including The Judgement of Paris, which was eventually acquired by Wilhelm Hack, a Cologne businessman whose collection later founded the Ludwigshafen museum that bears his name. The works had been on display at the museum since 1979.

The move comes after New York’s Neue Galerie facilitated a similar deal with the heir of the Hess family. A 1914 nude by German Expressionist artist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff had been hanging in the museum’s halls before being returned to its rightful owners, only to later be bought back by the institution for an undisclosed amount.

The Hess family was one of the foremost collectors of German Expressionist art at the time that the Nazis came to power. They had over 4,000 works in their possession, including paintings by Kirchner, Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde, and Paul Klee.

“[The Judgement of Paris] is a key picture in Kirchner’s oeuvre,” Germany’s culture minister Monika Grütters said in a statement. “It is to be especially welcomed that the city of Ludwigshafen and the Wilhelm Hack Museum succeeded in reaching a fair and just agreement with the heir of the earlier owner,” she concluded.

Grütters also thanked the heir for making the agreement possible through a considerable and “generous compromise” in regards to the artwork’s price.

According to the artnet Price Database, the record for a painting by Kirchner stands at $38 million, achieved in 2006 at Christie’s New York. The record-breaking painting, Berliner Straßenszene (1913-1914), was sold by the same heir—Alfred Hess’s granddaughter Anita Halpins, a British journalist and political figure—after it had been returned from the Brücke Museum by the city of Berlin. The work now hangs at New York’s Neue Galerie.

Things to See in New York This Week

1. Screening of Portrait of Alice Neel, 1976–1982 at the Kitchen
Portrait of Alice Neel, 1976-1982 is an intimate record by filmmaker Michel Auder. He and Neel became friends in ­­­­1975 when the artist was based on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A close relationship developed and Auder frequently visited her. The film draws from his extensive footage of her, at home, painting, on vacation, and in public, presenting a charming, collective portrait of the artist and insight into her daily life.

2. Storm King Art Center reopens for the 2017 season
After a dreary winter, where the weather seemed to mirror general public malaise, green pastures and corten sculptures are in our future once again! Storm King—a sprawling 500-acre park in the Hudson Valley—is a reminder of the triumph of publicly supported art. New exhibitions will be unveiled later in the season, but for now visitors can enjoy the permanent collection, which includes over 100 works by artists including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Alexander Calder, Andy Goldsworthy, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, and Richard Serra.

3. “Pen and Brush Presents… Melissa Febos, Martha Cooley, and Gwen North Reiss” at Pen + Brush
Every month Pen + Brush, a leading gallery and arts foundation dedicated to the advancement of women in the arts, holds a reading series featuring the writings of established and emerging authors. For April, they present Melissa Febos, Gwen North Reiss, and Martha Cooley reading their works.

4. “Cristina Camacho: Tracing the Out of Sight” at Praxis
Colombian-born, New York-based artist Cristina Camacho has an obsession with faces; an obsession that is clear in her upcoming exhibition, “Tracing the Out of Sight.” Her work proposes an encounter with the self, a rendezvous with a canvas whose painting and cutting (and name) transform it into something concrete and relatable.

Both “characters” and “skeletons” reveal a side which is often hidden to us but is also intrinsic to our essence. The moment you find yourself facing a work (pun intended), you are made to engage in a conversation that confronts us with the dichotomy of the piece’s intimacy and its public nature at the same time.

Anita Dube Appointed Curator

The Indian artist Anita Dube has been appointed curator of the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), slated to open in December 2018.

The announcement—in keeping with the KMB’s ethos of being helmed by an artist—was made at the closing ceremony of KMB 2016 on March 29 in Kochi.

Dube is taking over from Sudarshan Shetty, who curated a successful third edition of KMB that garnered positive reviews and attracted over 600,000 visitors.

“Through three editions, KMB has gained a reputation for being one of the most important exhibitions of its kind around the world. It is an honor and a very big challenge to be declared curator of this wonderful platform. I am delighted that the jurors thought I can deliver,” said Dube after the announcement.

“I accept the responsibility with excitement and humility. It is early days yet and my thoughts will no doubt undergo several changes going forward, but I view this as an opportunity to do something special,” she added.

In her work, Dube—a visual and performance artist with an academic background in art history—uses objects, industrial materials, performance, and text to explore socio-political issues.

She was a member of the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association—a short-lived yet influential collective of artists who challenged the commodification of art in India.

Dube exhibited in the KMB’s first edition in 2012. She also participated in the well-known exhibition “Indian Highway” curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones, and Gunnar B. Kvaran at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 2008.

Takes Down Polarizing Dana Schutz Painting

A painting that has inspired protests and calls for its removal from the Whitney Biennial, and even its destruction, has come off the wall for the time being—but not due to protests. Dana Schutz‘s painting Open Casket (2016), which depicts the disfigured body of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old lynching victim, has been temporarily removed from its wall due to a water leak at the New York museum.

The removal was spotted by Hyperallergic, which posted an April 2nd Tweet showing signage at the Whitney warning visitors of a temporary gallery closure due to a “mechanical issue:”

The situation arose after a heavy rainstorm on Friday night, a representative of the museum confirmed to artnet News. No art was damaged, but works by Julien Nguyen and Maya Stovall were also removed. The Biennial is expected to be back up and running as normal on Wednesday when the museum reopens. (It is normally closed on Tuesdays.)

The freak event might appear as a gift from the gods to critics of Open Casket, who have gone so far as to circulate a fake letter pretending to be from Schutz, asking that her controversial painting be removed from the show, in an effort to embarrass the artist and museum.

Yet in the present case, the focus on the Schutz painting seems a distraction from the real story, which is that the new Whitney is leaking! A mere two years after the opening of the big museum’s state-of-the-art Renzo Piano building, artworks in its signature Biennial are being evacuated on account of bad weather. That seems like a big deal.

A Piece of the Chelsea Hotel’s Fabled Art History

Buyers can nab a piece of the iconic Chelsea Hotel’s history when Freeman’s auction house in Philadelphia offers the private art collection of longtime manager Stanley Bard at auction next month (May 16).

Bard, who passed away in February at age 82, oversaw the hotel for 50 years. His life is inextricably linked with the hotel’s rich history—which is both famous and infamous—and the many creative geniuses, including writers, musicians and artists for whom it was a favorite haunt or longtime home.

The Chelsea Hotel “was obviously such a magnet for creative types, so a lot of the artists in the sale are those who were associated with the hotel,” said Dunham Townend, head of Freeman’s modern and contemporary art department. “Of course,” she added, “no one was more associated with the hotel than Stanley himself so he got to be great friends with many of the artists.”

A New York Times obituary dubbed Bard the “Robin Hood of innkeepers,” and a longtime resident called him “the most beloved—and enigmatic—character ever to grace the halls of the Chelsea.”

Townend said the auction, titled “Stanley Bard: A Life at the Chelsea,” features about 90 lots and spans a relatively wide time frame, with the earliest work dating to 1901. Further, some of the works, such as the sale’s top lot—an oil on shaped canvas by Tom Wesselmann—bear personal dedications to Bard from the respective artists.

The Wesselmann, for instance, Face #1 (1966) bears an inscription on the verso that reads, “For Stanley with Affection–Tom Wesselmann”. It is estimated at $600,000 to $800,000 and is by far the most expensive lot of the sale. Most of the works are priced under $50,000, and the least expensive, is a work by Don Olsen, also inscribed to Bard, that is estimated at $300 to $500.