Lebanon Denies Passport to Curator Christine Tohme

Christine Tohme

Curator Christine Tohme has been denied a passport renewal from Lebanon because of a warrant issued against her, reports Artinfo’s Mostafa Heddaya. The founder and director of Ashkal Alwan (the Lebanese Association for the Plastic Arts) and the newly appointed curator of the thirteenth Sharjah Biennial, Tohme believes that she is being targeted due to her Ashkal Alwan roles.

Heddaya notes that Tohme—and apparently others in the cultural sector—are being denied passports following the antigovernment protests that rocked Beirut in 2015 and that included the participation of many artists. (He also noted that no official connection has been reported to exist between Ashkal Alwan and artists who took part in the demonstrations.)

A statement issued by Tohme attests: “The significance of this action against me cannot be understated, as it affects the domain of other civic workers, as well as mine personally. Using warrants illegally for obstruction of an administrative procedures, such as renewing passports, strips people of their right to mobility and travel. This is an illegal penalty issued by an administrative security authority, not a judiciary one.” (A more extended passage from her statement can be found here.) According to Heddaya, the Lebanese embassy in Washington, DC, did not comment when requested for a response.

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June 28, 2016

Emma Sulkowicz Receives 2016 Woman of Courage Award

Emma Sulkowicz

William Hicks of Heatstreet writes that Emma Sulkowicz, the artist who garnered attention for Carry That Weight, 2015, her BFA thesis project at Columbia University, for which she carried a mattress with her everywhere on campus for a year to protest the school’s treatment of her rape allegations against another student, just received the National Organization for Women’s 2016 Woman of Courage Award.

In response to the award, the artist said in an entry on her Instagram account: “Camille Paglia has publicly called my artwork a ‘masochistic exercise’ in which I neither ‘evolve’ nor ‘move on.’ She speaks as if she, a white woman, knew what was best for me, a woman of color she’s never met. Many people ask me how I've ‘healed’ from my assault, as if healing were another word for ‘forgetting about it,’ ‘getting over it,’ or even ‘shutting up about it.’ To expect me to move on is to equate courage with self-censorship. The phrases—suck it up, move on, and get over it—are violence. . . I dedicate this award to everyone who has not told me to get over it. Thank you for validating my fear and my way of handling it. Thank you for creating a world in which we can tackle the things that terrify us by doing the unexpected right thing.”

June 28, 2016

“Brexit” Causes Repercussions in Art Market

Phillips auction house in London

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has caused repercussions within the art market, writes Scott Reyburn of the New York Times. One of the aftershocks was felt most pointedly at a Phillips auction of twentieth-century and contemporary art, held this week at Phillips’s London headquarters.

Nearly $16 million worth of art sold last night from thirty-one lots (thirty-two percent of the lots went unsold), down from last June’s sale of equivalent works, which totaled over $24 million from fifty lots (only sixteen percent of the lots didn’t sell).

Nonetheless, Morgan Long, a director of art investment at the Fine Art Fund Group, said “They did a decent job, given this was the first sale of Brexit week. They dropped the reserves, buyers were thinking about currencies and there was deeper bidding on the some of the lots that sold than we’ve seen in a while.”

June 28, 2016

King’s Cross Redevelopment Team Appoints Curators Tamsin Dillon and Rebecca Heald

Rebecca Heald and Tamsin Dillon

The King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership—a development coalition—has announced Tamsin Dillon and Rebecca Heald will join the organization as its new curators. The duo will lead the King’s Cross Project, a three-year plan for commissioning art throughout the sixty-seven-acre neighborhood, which boasts a large residential area and business community.

The area used to be booming with industry, but by the late twentieth century many buildings had fallen into disrepair. Plans for redevelopment began to move forward in 1996. In 2001, Argent was selected as a redevelopment partner, and in 2006 an outline—prepared by Allies and Morrison and Porphyrios Associate—for fifty new buildings, twenty new streets, ten new public spaces, and the restoration of twenty historic buildings as well as 2,000 homes was approved. Since then, the University of the Arts London relocated to the area and companies such as Google, Louis Vuitton, and Universal Music, have opened their doors their as well. Now the redevelopment team is looking to add art to the mix. Works will be commissioned for both buildings and public spaces throughout King’s Cross.

Dillon was director of Art on the Underground—a contemporary art program that launched in 2000 to promote greater understanding of the Tube as a cultural and social environment—for nine years. She also served as the interim head of exhibitions and displays at Tate Liverpool. Currently, she is a curator for 14-18 NOW. She is a founding member of the board of trustees for Turner Contemporary in Margate, a member of the commissioning group for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, and a member of the new Arts on the Waterways advisory group. She is also a juror for the 2016 Turner Prize.

Heald is a curator who has worked in exhibition and education departments at Tate Britain, the Hayward Gallery, Sadie Coles HQ, and the Art on the Underground. Recent curatorial initiatives include “Thinking Tantra in Mumbai,” touring to London's Drawing Room (2016); “The House of Ferment” with Grizedale Arts for Science Gallery London at Borough Market (2015); and a commission for Art on the Underground with American artist Trevor Paglen at Gloucester Road Tube station, London. She has served on the boards of Studio Voltaire, London, and the Liverpool Biennial, and currently works as a Tutor in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art.

Ian Freshwater, an Argent LLP project director, said, “We are proud to take forward this ambitious vision for an integrated program of temporary and permanent artworks, all developed with multiple audiences in mind and in many cases directly involving community participation.”

June 28, 2016

New Report Reveals Munich Museums Sold Artworks Looted by Nazis

From left: Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler looking at art.

A total of 3,500 Nazi-looted artworks were sold by museums in Munich after World War II instead of being returned to their rightful owners, report Catrin Lorch and Jörg Häntzschel of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Catherine Hinckley of the Art Newspaper.

These artworks, found by the Monuments Men, a group of art experts appointed to locate and protect works stolen by the Nazis, were handed off to Bavaria’s State Paintings Collections so that they could be given back to their original owners. Instead, the organization sold and gave away the works to various parties, including relatives of higher-ups within the Nazi regime, according to a report by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), headquartered in London.

CLAE uncovered all of this while investigating the provenance of a piece by Jan van der Heyden, which is currently in the collection of the Xanten Cathedral, in North Rhine-Westphalia. It once belonged to a Jewish family by name of Kraus, who were forced to leave Vienna in 1938.

The Van der Heyden was bought by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer (Hoffmann’s daughter, Henriette, married Baldur von Schirach, the Third Reich’s youth leader). Hoffmann’s art collection, along with the art collections of other top-ranking Nazis, were taken into the custody of the Monuments Men after the war. However, Henriette von Schirach bought back the Van der Heyden, in addition to numerous other artworks and valuable objects, as did other members of Hoffman’s family, after WWII.

Anne Webber of CLAE said, “It is particularly striking that the Hoffmann family was getting virtually everything back that it claimed with minimal proof of ownership and this went on for almost two decades. The burden of proof was much higher for claims from Jewish families—from the victims of these Nazi leaders."

Shortly after buying the Van der Heyden, Von Schirach sold it to the Xanten Cathedral. The Xanten Cathedral Association, however, refute the Kraus family’s claim to the work. The Bavarian State Paintings Collections has gone on record claiming it did not hinder the restitution of these stolen artworks. It says it is willing to locate “fair and just solutions” with the relatives of those who were robbed.

June 28, 2016

Meg Onli Appointed Assistant Curator at ICA Philadelphia

Meg Onli

Artnews’s Hannah Ghorashi writes that Meg Onli has been appointed assistant curator at the ICA Philadelphia.

Onli, a curator and writer who was the program coordinator at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts in Chicago, aided in putting together a number of the institution’s exhibitions, such as “Architecture of Independence: African Modernism” and “Barbara Kasten: Stages,” both from 2015. She received a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant in 2012 for her website, the Black Visual Archive, a journal dedicated to contemporary black art, thinking, and discourse. She was also awarded a research grant from the Graham Foundation for “Remaking the Black Metropolis: Contemporary Art, Urbanity, and Blackness in America,” a collaborative project with Jamilee Polson Lacy, the curator of Providence College Galleries.

June 28, 2016

Chris Siefert Appointed Deputy Director of Parrish Art Museum

Chris Siefert

Starting July 1, 2016, Chris Siefert will begin his new appointment as deputy director of the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York.

From 1996–98, Seifert was the chair of the Louisiana State Sculpture Park committee, in addition to being a sculpture teacher at Louisiana State University. Seifert held other major administrative roles at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh: as director of exhibits from 1998–2000; project manager from 2000–2005; and, finally, deputy director from 2007–2016. He has been the recipient of many prizes, such as the Times Project Organization Public Artwork Grant and the AIA Public Space Award.

“As the Museum approaches a new benchmark with our five-year anniversary in 2017, having Chris's level of experience and expertise will be key not only to our daily operations, but also to our strategic planning and vision for the future,” said the Parrish Museum’s director, Terrie Sultan.

June 28, 2016

Ben Patterson (1934–2016)

Ben Patterson

Ben Patterson, a musician, composer, and artist, as well as one of the founding bodies behind Fluxus, died on June 25, 2016 at home in Wiesbaden, Germany, reports Andrew Russeth of Artnews.

Though Patterson was classically trained, he went well beyond the conventions of his education in creating radical musical compositions. (He was profoundly talented and, in Russeth’s words, “a virtuosic double bassist.”) In 1956, Patterson graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a music degree. But, because he was black, he could not find work in the United States. This led him to start playing with Canadian orchestras, like the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Halifax Symphony Orchestra.

In 1960 in Germany, Patterson experienced a concert by John Cage and David Tudor, which was revelatory: “I thought to myself, this is what I had had in the back of my mind as to how music could be made but never thought that anyone would take it seriously or that I could even produce it. So here it was.” Patterson introduced himself to Cage after the show that night, then ended up performing with Cage and Tudor the following night. And only a couple of years later, Patterson, with George Maciunas, put on the first Fluxus International Festival.

In 1970, however, he stopped performing regularly for nearly two decades. His reasons, according to an Interview magazine piece in 2013, were entirely pragmatic: “Family was coming along, and papa needed to earn money. If any Fluxus works were being sold at that point, it was for a penny or dollar per piece, so there was not much money to be made. I maintained my interest and followed what was going on, and from time to time would create small pieces, but it wasn’t a full-time occupation.” During his “hiatus,” Patterson worked as a full-time reference librarian; served as the deputy director of the New York Department of Cultural Affairs; and started his own music management company.

Patterson returned to making art—objects and performances—in 1987. In 2010, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston put on a retrospective of the artist’s work, titled “Benjamin Patterson: Born in the State of Flux/Us,” which ended up traveling to the Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Writer and critic Lauren O’Neill-Butler, in the June 2011 issue of Artforum, had this to offer in her review of the artist’s Studio Museum show: “Patterson’s ordinary life was not a rejection of the art world, and it had nothing to do with failure. It was also not motivated by any spiritual, deeply personal, or political reasons––though he once noted that it was dispiriting to be the only member of Fluxus attending civil rights rallies. . . The art world has never been good with hiatuses, however; when viewed retrospectively, Patterson’s might fall in line with his practice, but for many years it was just a falling-out.”

June 27, 2016

Dealers Oppose German Law that Will Enforce Strict Trade Regulations on Cultural Objects

German culture minister Monika Grütters speaking at last year’s Art in Karlsruhe exhibition.

On July 8, German parliament will vote on a cultural property protection law that if passed will prevent art of “national significance” from leaving the country, Catherine Hickley of Art Newspaper reports.

Proposed to combat illegal trafficking of artworks, the law requires a license in order to export works that are older than seventy-five years and worth $300,000 or more. It includes the selling of works within the European Union. Dealers and collectors strongly oppose the law, which they believe restricts their ownership rights. Antiquities traders are concerned that enforcing these new stipulations could send an already declining trade skidding to a halt.

Vincent Geerling, the chairman of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art—one of twenty associations lobbying against the bill—said, the law will enforce the world’s strictest import and export regulations on cultural objects. This is especially cumbersome for the trade of “archaeological assets” because the law will require a license from the country of origin before an artifact can be imported. Günter Puhze, a Freiburg-based dealer, pointed out why this is problematic: “Supposing you are offered a marble Roman head from a Swiss family collection. How could you get an export licence from the country of origin without knowing exactly where it was dug up, maybe decades ago? Would you have to go to all the states that were once part of the Roman Empire?” Puhze confirmed an uneasy collector has already moved his works outside of the country, and speculates that others may do the same.

The bill was passed by parliament’s lower house on June 23. Germany’s culture minister, Monika Grütter, said, “With the new cultural protection legislation Germany finally recognizes—albeit after decades of delay—international and European standards which already exist in almost all European countries.”

June 27, 2016

Peter Hutton (1944–2016)

Peter Hutton

The filmmaker Peter Hutton, who made over twenty films and was the Charles Franklin Kellogg and Grace E. Ramsey Kellogg Professor of the Arts at Bard College, has died. Born in Detroit, Hutton studied at the San Francisco Art Institute where he received both a BFA and MFA and taught at Hampshire College, Harvard University, and SUNY Purchase. He taught at Bard since 1984. His films stemmed from his time as a merchant seaman, when he spent nearly forty years moving across the globe, usually by cargo ship, to create cinematic studies of places such as the Yangtze River or a ship graveyard in Bangladesh.

A retrospective of his films was shown at MoMA in 2008 and he also had work shown in the Whitney Biennials for 1985, 1991, 1995, and 2004. Last year he was included in a two person show with James Benning at Miguel Abreu in New York. Throughout his life he received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, DAAD Berliner, Rockefeller Foundation, and a Dutch Film Critics Award as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship.