New Curator for Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art

Fernando Cocchiarale

According to Artnexus, the Museo de Arte moderno in Rio de Janeiro has a new curator of visual arts: Fernando Cocchiarale. A professor of aesthetics in the philosophy department of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Cocchiarale had previously taught at the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage for over twenty years.

A former curator of the Rumos: Itaú Cultural program, he has served as visual arts coordinator of Funarte, and has authored hundreds of articles and several books, including Abstracionismos Geométrico e Informal, Funarte, Rio de Janeiro (1987), with Anna Bella Geiger.

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September 29, 2016

Nils Erik Gjerdevik (1962–2016)

Nils Erik Gjerdevik

Nils Erik Gjerdevik, a Danish painter, draftsmen, and ceramicist interested in color, architecture, and design, has died.

Born in Oslo, Norway in 1962, Gjerdevik studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and taught at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.

Gjerdevik had been commissioned to create public works by institutions such as the University of Copenhagen and the Opera House in Copenhagen. In 2001, he became a member of Den Frie Center for Contemporary Art, and in 2002, he was awarded the Eckersberg Medal.

During his three-decade career, Gjerdevik focused on creating nonfigurative and monochrome paintings often with grid-like compositions. His ceramic works referenced science fiction, and often appeared to depict space stations and futuristic spaces.

Gjerdevik’s works are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Denmark; Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark; Bergen Art Museum, Norway; National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo; Danish and Norwegian Arts Councils; Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden; and Malmö Art Museum, Sweden.

In a statement, Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie said, “Aside from his professional qualities, he had an insatiable curiosity for culture of all kinds that he shared with his fellow colleagues, friends and acquaintances. He was always ready with a big smile, good humor, a bear hug, enthusiasm, and contagious lust for life.”

September 29, 2016

Elizabeth LeCompte Awarded $300,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize

Elizabeth LeCompte

The Gish Prize Trust announced today that Elizabeth LeCompte, experimental theater pioneer and founding member and director of the Wooser Group, will be awarded the twenty-third annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. She will receive a $300,000 cash prize.

“I think of the Gish Prize as an affirmation of what The Wooster Group represents and the work we’ve created together over the past forty years,” Elizabeth LeCompte said. “There’s a tendency with theater to think of each show as its own beginning and end, but what’s important to me is the whole thread of the work—the way each piece has a relationship to our past, and to the way the group continues to change and evolve. I’m deeply grateful to the Gish Prize for recognizing that our company is still in it for the long haul—because this award is going to help us keep creating, as we have since the beginning.”

LeCompte, who was trained as a visual artist, founded The Wooster Group in 1975 with Spalding Gray. Under LeCompte’s leadership, the group created and performed more than thirty works, including theater, film, video, and dance, which often incorporate recorded sound and architectonic designs while revisiting classic texts by authors such as Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Arthur Miller.

September 28, 2016

The Met Lays Off 34 Employees in First Phase of Financial Restructuring

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that it has laid off thirty-four employees, 1.5 percent of its work force, in order to prevent a $10 million deficit from ballooning.

The staff reduction is not as large as the institution originally predicted. In July, after fifty employees took voluntary buyouts, the museum announced that it planned to cut at least fifty more positions.

“These are difficult decisions—we’re disappointed to be losing good colleagues—but we’re making very good progress on the process we put in motion,” Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and chief operating officer, told the New York Times. “Our goal was to meet the budget objectives that we have without in any way diminishing the core mission of the museum.”

As the first phase of the museum’s financial restructuring comes to a close, Weiss said, “we’ll be turning more actively to fund-raising.”

September 28, 2016

Iraq’s Basrah Museum, Formerly Saddam Hussein’s Private Palace, Opens Despite Numerous Obstacles

The Basrah Museum. Photo: Andy Holmes/MOD.

The Basrah Museum in southern Iraq, which once served as Saddam Hussein’s private palace many years ago, partially opened yesterday after eight years of planning and numerous obstacles, writes Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper. The city of Basra’s former museum was looted during the 1991 Gulf War and profoundly damaged during the 2003 attacks. Though much of the museum’s collection was kept relatively safe with the National Museum in Baghdad, the Basrah’s former director, Mudhar Abd Alhay, was shot to death in 2005.

In 2008, Alhay’s replacement, Qahtan Alabeed, forged ahead in trying to open another museum in Basra. The British Museum and the British Army agreed to help Alabeed by lending assistance and expertise with security, displays, climate control, and creating a regular schedule of opening hours for the museum. The Basra Provincial Council promised $3 million in funding, but couldn’t due to budgetary issues. Nonetheless, money for the museum was raised by John Curtis’s UK-based charity, Friends of Basrah Museum. Curtis, a former keeper at the British Museum, had raised more than $650,000 for the Basrah, largely through donations given by BP—just enough money for the museum to open halfway. (Alabeed has made one gallery available, dedicated to the history of Basra from about 300 BCE to the nineteenth century. The other three galleries—which cover Assyria, Sumer, and Babylon—are expected to open in about three years.) The museum estimates that it will need another $560,000 to open fully. The UK’s Cultural Protection Fund could provide a grant—a decision from the organization is expected in late November of this year.

Now Alabeed needs to get a fair number of the museum’s artifacts returned. Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, after long negotiations with Alabeed, will loan 550 objects to Basra—the pieces will be joining 160 Ottoman-era works that never left the city. Transporting the works to Basra will also be difficult, as the journey’s about 310 miles from Baghdad’s National Museum. Authorities have yet to approve the transfer of the works. They also need to provide a military escort.

September 28, 2016

Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016)

Annie Pootoogook

The Canadian Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook has died according to reports by Canadian news sources. She was found in Ottawa’s Rideau River earlier this month and local police are investigating the case as suspicious. Pootoogook was born in Cape Dorset, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and came from a family of artists. Best known for her drawings, her work has been featured in various exhibitions since 2002 and her show at the Power Plant in Toronto won the Sobey Art Award in 2006. She was also included in the Montreal Biennale in 2007, the same year she had works in Art Basel.

Pootoogook’s participation in Documenta 12 was historic; she was the first Inuit artist ever to be included. Her work has also been shown at the National Museum of the American Indian and in the 2014 exhibition “Oh, Canada,” which Christopher Howard wrote a Critics’ Pick on.

September 28, 2016

Tino Sehgal Wins the 2016 Hans Molfenter Prize

Tino Sehgal

The Kunstmuseum Stuttgart foundation announced that a jury has awarded Tino Sehgal the 2016 Hans Molfenter Prize, reports Monopol. The $18,000 prize honors artists with a connection to Germany’s southwestern region. In addition Sehgal will create a project in the Stuttgart area, with the date is still to be determined, reported a spokeswoman of the foundation. Sehgal, who calls his performance-based work “constructed situations,” is currently Berlin-based, and spent his childhood in Germany after being born in London in 1976. Sehgal was cited by curator Catherine Wood for the artist’s 2015 survey at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which, “in its grandeur,” according to Wood, “felt somehow like a possible end to his seductive promise that ephemeral performance might erase the art object altogether.”

Sponsored by the estate of Stuttgart painter Hans Molfenter since 1983, the eponymous prize has previously recognized recipients such as Günter Behnisch, Walter Stöhrer, and Georg Winter.

September 28, 2016

Neue Galerie Returns Nazi-Looted Painting to Rightful Owners, then Buys It Back

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Nude, 1914.

The Neue Galerie has revealed that a painting from its collection, Nude, 1914, by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, was seized by the Nazis from a Jewish family during World War II. The museum returned the canvas to its rightful owners, the family of Alfred and Tekla Hess, and then bought it from them at market value, Grahman Bowley of the New York Times reports. The amount the institution paid for the work was not disclosed.

Chair of the Commission for Art Recovery, Ronald S. Lauder, a cofounder of the Neue Galerie and a champion of art restitution, has been criticized for more than a decade for not being more transparent about the origins of the works in the museum’s collection as well as his own. Lauder has recently addressed these concerns by hiring experts to work on updating the provenance information of the Neue Galerie’s holdings, which will be published on its website. The museum announced that it had discovered a work with a questionable history in August.

Researchers learned that the painting was in storage at the Cologne Art Association when Tekla was forced to leave Germany in 1939 to escape the Nazis. Her husband, Alfred, had been a collector of Expressionist art. The work did not resurface again until 1994, when the heirs of painter Peter Herkenrath sold it at a Berlin auction house. The Neue Galerie purchased the canvas at auction in 1999.

When the Hess family contacted the museum more than a year ago, the institution maintained that it bought the painting in good faith but, upon accessing German archives, confirmed it had in fact been looted. “This case is an example of how provenance research has evolved and how much more we know today than we knew twenty years ago,” Agnes Peresztegi, general counsel for the Neue Galerie, said.

In a joint statement, David J. Rowland, the lawyer representing the Hess family, and the museum said that the Hesses “commended the professional and transparent manner in which the Neue Galerie has handled this matter.”

Lauder previously returned three works from his own collection to families who had their possessions confiscated by the Nazis, but this is the first work from the museum’s collection to be restituted.

September 28, 2016

Artist to Spend 6 Days Perched on 65-Foot-High Platform for Paris’s Nuit Blanche Festival

Abraham Poincheval on his sixty-five foot tall perch in front of Gare de Lyon, where he will live until October 1.

As part of Paris’s Nuit Blanche art festival, which will take place on the night of October 1, French artist Abraham Poincheval has installed himself on a small platform overlooking the esplanade in front of one of the city’s main train stations, Gare de Lyon. Poincheval ascended sixty-five feet to reach the lofted five-foot by three-foot platform on September 26. He will live there until October 1, with no protection from wind, rain, or sun.

Poincheval’s performance is inspired by stylites, Christian ascetic who live on pillars from which they preach and pray. But in an interview with the Parisian daily 20minutes, the artist made a contemporary analogy as well. “I’m curious to see how people live in this part of Paris. I am kind of like a living surveillance camera.”

September 27, 2016

Wim Pijbes Steps Down as Director of Museum Voorlinden

Wim Pijbes

After only three weeks at the helm of the Netherlands’s new Museum Voorlinden, Wim Pijbes has announced that he is resigning but will remain on the board. Founded by Joop van Caldenborgh, the private contemporary art museum opened its doors on September 10.

In an interview, Pijbes told the New York Times that he and van Caldenborgh had different visions for the institution. Pijbes said, “I felt I had more freedom to advise Joop and to bring added value to the museum as a board member.” He added, “It’s about expectations and reality. We had a good conversation, and we both agreed that we were both not happy with how it was going. I offered to step aside.” Suzanne Swarts, a curator and the artistic director of the museum, will serve as the new managing director.

Pijbes left his post as director of the Rijksmuseum after eight years in order to join the Voorlinden. During his tenure at the Dutch national museum, Pijbes successfully raised $375 million for an expansion project, which helped the institution more than double its attendance.