Luca Belgiorno-Nettis has resigned as chairman of the Sydney Biennale, according to Michael Safi and Paul Farrell in The Guardian. His move follows a statement issued by thirty-seven participating artists who encouraged the festival to examine its ties to sponsor Transfield, a contractor which operated detention centers accused of mismanagement and human rights abuses. A number of the signatories even withdrew their artwork from the event. “I wear two hats: one as chair of the Biennale of Sydney and the other as a director of Transfield Holdings; both organizations conceived by my father and nurtured by my family over many decades,” said Belgiorno-Nettis in a statement. “I learned that some international government agencies are beginning to question the decision of the Biennale’s board to stand by Transfield. Biennale staff have been verbally abused with taunts of ‘blood on your hands.’ I have been personally vilified with insults, which I regard as naive and offensive. This situation is entirely unfair—especially when directed towards our dedicated biennale team who give so much of themselves.”
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston has announced the appointment of Caroline Goeser as head of its department of learning and interpretation, reports Steven Litt of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Goeser will also head the museum’s Glassell School of Art. Previously the head of education at the Cleveland Museum of Art and a tenured professor in the University of Houston, Goeser was born in Berkeley, California and holds a doctorate in art history from Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She begins her new post in April.
Artist Carla Accardi has passed away, reports Carlo Alberto Bucci in La Repubblica. Accardi moved to Rome in 1946, and, with various other artists—including her husband Antonio Sanfilippo—formed the Marxist-inspired Gruppo Forma 1 a year later. In 1970, she also cofounded the Rivolta Femminile group with fellow feminists Elvira Banotti and Carla Lonzi. She was named a member of the Accademia di Brera in 1996.
Composer Robert Ashley has died at the age of eighty-three. Considered a forerunner of the audio synthesis movement and known for his disruptive reinvention of the operatic form—fusing electronic music into theater and operas—Ashley had a prolific career, with a list of works dating back to 1957. He cofounded the Sonic Arts Union with Gordon Mumma in 1958, a collective featuring composers like Alvin Lucier and David Behrman, and in 1964, produced the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor, where he presented the first mixed-media operas. He was awarded the 2002 John Cage Award for Music and his work will be featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. His death was confirmed by his biographer Kyle Gann in a blog post on Ashley’s website. Wrote Gann: “Bob was one of the most amazing composers of the twentieth century, and the greatest genius of twentieth-century opera. I don’t know how long it’s going to take the world to recognize that.”
Steven Litt reports in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that the Cleveland Museum of Art will devote a large portion of a recent $10 million gift to diversify “an audience traditionally dominated by middle-class whites,” by launching programs aimed at community engagement. The museum couldn’t announce the full price tag for this initiative—but said it runs into the millions—because the remaining amount was used to purchase ninety-five Indian paintings, and the museum doesn’t disclose what it pays for works in private sales. Bidwell said he hoped the city’s diverse communities would tell the museum how it could better serve them. “A lot of the work of community engagement is the outreach, the listening part, and that’s what’s different,” said Fred Bidwell, the museum’s interim director.
Artist Norman Yonemoto has died. Born in 1946, Yonemoto studied film at Santa Clara University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the American Film Institute, Los Angeles, where he earned his MFA in 1972. He cofounded the production company KYO-DAI with his brother, Bruce, in 1976. In 1999, the first retrospective of their collaborative work was exhibited at the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. The artist duo has been awarded, among others, a media arts fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, a production grant and a visual arts fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Phelan award for video art/docu-drama. Their work has been shown internationally and belong in the collections of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Malcolm Rogers, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has announced that he will retire as soon as the museum’s board names his successor, reports Carol Vogel of the New York Times. Rogers, who has been at the museum for nineteen years, is the longest-serving director in the institution’s history. During his tenure, he increased museum attendance by over 200,000 visitors per year and grew the endowment from $180 million to $602 million. The museum itself also expanded in size during Rogers’s time: Ninety-seven of its galleries have been either expanded or renovated, including the museum’s American wing, which alone increased the museum’s size by 28 percent. Rogers recently turned down a contract that would have extended his role at the museum until 2018.
Rice University, Houston, has announced plans to demolish its Martel Center, reports Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times. Originally known as the Rice Museum, the building was commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil in 1969 upon the founding of the Institute for the Arts at Rice. The structure’s corrugated-metal style is said to have inspired Houston’s “tin house” movement, which began in the area in the 1970s. The university has not yet released a demolition date.
Steven McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013) has won Best Picture at the eighty-sixth Academy Awards. Born in London in 1969, McQueen studied fine art at Goldsmith College, University of London, where he first explored his interest in film. His first major work, Bear (1993), was quickly followed by a succession of other short films, including Deadpan (1997) and Drumroll (1998). In 1999, McQueen won the Turner Prize for his video art. His first feature film, Hunger (2008), premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won the inaugural Sydney Film Festival Prize, the 2008 Diesel Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and a Los Angeles Film Critics Association award. Later that year, McQueen was chosen to represent Britain at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Along with an Academy Award, 12 Years a Slave has also won the BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in 2014.