Category Archives: Art and Entertainment

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.

Sparking a Perplexing Fight Over Artistic Plagiarism

Two nearly identical photographs are at the heart of a debate about possible plagiarism in an entry to the Sony World Photography Awards. The players are Romanian artist Alex Andriesi, who lives in Montpellier, France, and Portugal-based photographer Anka Zhuravleva. Both photographers’ images show colorful, hovering spheres in a soft-lit hallway, lit by windows at left, and a girl or a woman in a green dress, floating in the air and grasping one of the spheres, her face toward the camera, eyes closed. By any measure, the images are strikingly similar.

After the shortlist for the “Open” section of the 10th edition of the prize was announced in February, Zhuravleva took to Facebook with a March 19 post accusing Andriesi of plagiarism. Followers lined up to support her complaint, though some say she has no choice but to shrug it off.

The prize itself includes a trip to London and a total prize fund of $30,000, along with photo equipment for the winners.

The World Photography Organisation weighed in on Zhuravleva’s post with a comment a few days later, saying that it takes any such accusations seriously and always conducts an investigation.

Here’s where things get really intriguing: As part of that investigation, Andriesi showed the World Photography Organization and the publication PetaPixel, which earlier reported this story, documents and a video that supports his claim of innocence. But that evidence remains secret; Andriesi reportedly won’t show it to the public. In addition to the possibility that the video could provoke a nasty debate, he tells PetaPixel, “I’m also afraid that Anka’s tight-knit community may view the video as retaliation.”

“In this instance Alex Andriesi has provided documents that support his statement that he has not plagiarised the work of any other artist and his influence was taken from elsewhere,” says the WPO in its Facebook comment, without specifying the actual inspiration.

For Zhuravleva, that’s not much of a defense. Speaking to PetaPixel, she characterized their defense this way: “‘No, he didn’t copy you, he copied someone else. So do not worry.’”

Both photographers traffic in soft-focus photos of beautiful people in romantic settings. Since picking up a camera in 2006, Zhuravleva has shot numerous book covers and has shown her work at venues throughout Europe and in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Andriesi doesn’t seem to have a website that would provide biographical information.

Feature a wide range of artists

Ai Weiwei, Haegue Yang, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Anya Gallaccio, and Oliver Beer are some of the artists who are participating in the 21st Biennale of Sydney, slated to open to the public on March 16, 2018.

Biennale curator Mami Kataoka has revealed a diverse preliminary list of 21 participating artists, including one artist duo, 10 artists from throughout Asia, five European artists, four Australian artists, and one artist from the US.

Kataoka also revealed some of the ideas that are shaping her curatorial vision for the event:

“Next year’s Biennale will explore multiple viewpoints. With a holistic view, the 21st Biennale of Sydney will also seek in-depth engagement with individuals and communities while exploring a range of perspectives and meanings of abstractions,” the curator said in a statement.

“Rather than focusing on a specific concept or theme, the exhibition will suggest multi-layered perspectives of the world and its histories simultaneously,” she explained.

The organization also confirmed that an exhibition celebrating the 45th anniversary of the biennial will also take place as part of its upcoming edition.

This show will draw from the organization’s vast archive, which gathers works by over 1,800 artists from over 100 countries that have been shown throughout its history.

There will be around 70 artists taking part in the biennial in total. A complete list will be released at a later date.

Meanwhile, these are the 21 participating artists who have been announced so far:

Eija-Liisa Ahtila (born 1959 in Finland, lives and works in Helsinki)
Ai Weiwei (born 1957 in China, lives and works in Beijing)
Brook Andrew (born 1970 in Australia, lives and works in Melbourne)
Oliver Beer (born 1985 in England, lives and works in Paris and London)
Anya Gallaccio (born 1963 in Scotland, lives and works in San Diego)
Laurent Grasso (born 1972 in France, lives and works in Parisand New York)
N.S.Harsha (born 1969 in India, lives and works in Mysore)
Mit JaiInn (born 1960 in Thailand, lives and works in Chiang Mai)
Kate Newby (born 1979 in New Zealand, lives and works in Auckland and New York)
Noguchi Rika (born 1971 in Japan, lives and works in Okinawa)
Nguyen Trinh Thi (born 1973 in Vietnam, lives and works in Hanoi)
Ciara Phillips (born 1976 in Canada, lives and works in Glasgow)
Koji Ryui (born 1976 in Japan, lives and works in Sydney)
Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman, born 1973 in England, and Joe Gerhardt, born 1972 in England, live and work in Brighton)
Yasmin Smith (born 1984 in Australia, lives and works in Sydney)
George Tjungurrayi (born c. 1943 in Australia, lives and works in Kintore)
Nicole Wong (born 1990 in Hong Kong, lives and works in Hong Kong)
Wong Hoy Cheong (born 1960 in Malaysia, lives and works in Kuala Lumpur)

This Secret Duchampian Password Will Get You Into Museums for Free

Word is leaking out, as it were, about how a simple art-historical fact can get you free admission to more than a dozen museums worldwide on April 9, courtesy of Dada master Marcel Duchamp.

But you’ll have to know a code word.

It all relates to Duchamp’s first Readymade, the infamous Fountain (1917), a simple urinal from a plumbing supply shop that was inscribed with the faux signature “R. Mutt.” Richard Mutt was supposedly the name of the plumber who had created the urinal, which, through the simple act of calling it art, Duchamp would transform into an artwork. It was a gesture that would change art for good, paving the way for movements like conceptual art and appropriation art.

This year marks the centennial of the work, which created a scandal when Duchamp submitted it anonymously to the first juried art show organized by the Society of Independent Artists, in New York; Duchamp and other artists would resign in protest from the jury when the work was rejected.

Come April 9, the work’s birthday, all you have to do is identify yourself as R. Mutt or Richard Mutt at the admissions desk between 3 and 4 p.m., and you can get free admission, according to a press release, to institutions including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, Paris’s Pompidou Center (that is, if the strike ends and the museum reopens), the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, Kunsthalle Basel, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, and the Israel Museum, in Jerusalem.

But code words are meant to be a secret, right? And this one seems to be so hush-hush that when artnet News attempted to get confirmation of the initiative from press offices at a few of the participating museums, the response was unequivocal: “We aren’t offering any kind of special access on that date,” writes a press rep at Tate Modern. “We are not part of the project,” says a press officer at the Hamburger Bahnhof.

The response from MoMA’s press department, though, seems to provide a little wiggle room: “We cannot confirm MoMA’s participation.”

UPDATE: Wednesday morning, a press representative of MoMA contacted artnet News to say that “I can confirm that The Museum of Modern Art is not participating in a free ticket offer.”

So what gives?

The project does, indeed, seem too fanciful to be true. According to the announcement, a dedicated men’s room in each institution will be a unisex bathroom, “to provide space for everyone wanting to honor the centennial … with impromptu readings, homages, proclamations, and performances.” (Curiously enough, the project happens to come at the same time that admission to bathrooms for transgender people is increasingly contested in the US.)

The enigmatic initiative is organized by Thomas Girst, who, in his day job, is Head of Cultural Engagement for carmaker BMW, and has penned or co-authored books such as The Duchamp Dictionary, The Indefinite Duchamp, and Aftershock: The Legacy of the Readymade in Post-War and Contemporary American Art. Reached by phone on Monday, he insisted that it’s all for real.

One museum that readily confirmed its participation is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which stewards a legendary collection of the artist’s work. Its holdings include key works such as the so-called Large Glass and Étant donnés, which the artist worked on in secret for years and which, says the institution, Jasper Johns called “the strangest work of art in any museum.”

Arts advocates raise their voices

A capacity crowd of 400 rallied at the steps of City Hall in downtown Manhattan on Monday to speak out against proposed cuts to public funding of arts and culture by the Trump administration. A budget that Trump put forth in March would zero out funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Institute of Library and Museum Services.

Speakers on Monday included Talking Heads frontman (and enthusiastic visual artist) David Byrne and Broadway actors Jelani Remy and L. Steven Taylor (Simba and Mufasa in The Lion King, respectively). Accompanying the demonstration were several musicians with brass and wind instruments, serenading the speakers from a nearby section of City Hall Park.

The New York City Hall rally echoed the sentiments of a call put out by leading art figures like Marina Abramović, Laurie Anderson, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Julian Schnabel, and Richard Serra to defend public arts funding.

Local government was out in force, with Councilman Jimmy van Bramer, who emceed the event, starting things off with a fiery call to action. “Trump talks about ‘making America great again,’” he said, “but you don’t make a country great by crushing its soul.” He called Trump’s budget “an unprecedented and vicious assault” on the very idea of culture.

Byrne made an economic argument for public support of the arts, pointing out there’s a great return on investment in terms of jobs and tax revenues, and got laughs when he said, “You may hate the arts, but it’s complete stupidity to destroy this part of the economy.”

Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, managed to wring a laugh from the crowd as well, starting off by touting the city’s considerable culture budget and saying, “You want to be number one in everything, right? We are number two in funding of the arts. We do not want to be number one.”

Learning Apprentice to LA Art Star Thomas Houseago

That’s one way to cope. On the heels of his divorce from Angelina Jolie, actor Brad Pitt is honing his art skills under the tutelage of British sculptor Thomas Houseago, according to the British tabloid the Daily Mail.

The 53-year-old actor is reportedly spending marathon sessions of up to 15 hours a day in Houseago’s Los Angeles studio, staying long after the artist’s assistants have called it a day.

“Art is a way for him to concentrate on one thing, taking his mind off everything else,” an unnamed source hypothesized to the Mail, adding that Pitt is “learning at a fast pace.”

The tabloid speculates that Pitt was inspired to become a sculptor himself after attending a conversation between Houseago and Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea, in which Houseago spoke of his own personal difficulties. (The event was at the Broad art museum, and is archived on Facebook Live.) Evidently, Pitt and Houseago live near each other in the same “exclusive compound” and “have been friends for some time.”

Pitt’s newfound passion for sculpting has even taken precedence over Hollywood’s annual award season. Aside from a brief appearance at the Golden Globes in January, Pitt blew off all other ceremonies and galas. He even skipped the Oscars despite being one of the producers of Best Picture winning film “Moonlight.”

But Pitt’s interest in art is long-standing.Two years ago, he was spotted visiting Berlin gallery Sprüth Magers to see Ed Ruscha’s “Metro Mattress” exhibition, which featured drawings of discarded mattresses to invoke Los Angeles’ urban landscape. Together, Pitt and Jolie amassed a collection that has been estimated to be worth $25 million. Prior to the couple’s well-publicized split, they acquired pieces from artists such as Marcel Dzama, Banksy, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, and Neo Rauch.