Yoshua Okón and Rujeko Hockley Elected to Art Matters Board

From left: Yoshua Okón and Rujeko Hockley

Yoshua Okón, an artist based in Mexico City, and Rujeko Hockley, an assistant curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, have been elected as new board members of artist grant foundation Art Matters.

Director of Art Matters Sacha Yanow states “Ru and Yoshua each bring unique perspectives and experience to our work and we’re thrilled to welcome them into the leadership of this organization.”

Hockley started at the Brooklyn Museum in 2012. Some of the exhibitions she helped organize there include “The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Ode to Joy, 2001-2013,” 2013, and “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” 2015. Okón, an Art Matters grantee, has had solo exhibitions in Milan, Paris, and Los Angeles, among other places. His work can also be found in the collections of the Hammer Museum and Tate Modern.

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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 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.

September 27, 2016

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis to Wall Off Exhibit After Public Outcry

Panel discussion about the Kelley Walker exhibition on view at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

In the wake of public protests and disagreements among the staff of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis over the Kelley Walker exhibition, “Direct Drive,” that opened earlier this month, the museum has decided to erect barriers around the show, Debra D. Bass of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The museum is walling off the exhibit, which features works that have been described as “racially and sexually charged,” so that it can first explain the exhibit to its visitors with informational signs that have been added to the entrance of the show. Once the visitors read the signs, they can decide whether they want to view Walker’s works.

Activists initially called for people to boycott the exhibition after Walker and the institution’s chief curator Jeffrey Uslip were unable to satisfactorily answer questions regarding why the artist appropriates images of the civil rights movement, race riots, and African American women from a gentlemen’s magazine during an artist talk hosted by CAM on September 17.

The exhibition has also divided the museum’s staff. Three black employees, De Andrea Nichols, Lyndon Barrois Jr., and Victoria Donaldson, wrote a letter to the senior directors of the institution in which they called for Uslip’s resignation, the removal of several “offensive” works, and an apology from the museum. If CAM does not address their concerns, they’ve threatened to not perform any of their duties that would support “Direct Drive,” such as give museum tours and promote the show.

In response to the backlash, the museum hosted a panel discussion between cultural leaders and black artists on Thursday, September 22. More than 350 people were in attendance.

Executive director Lisa Melandri said that she consulted with the board, her staff, and local artists about what the museum’s next steps should be.

In a statement the museum said: “Taking down the show would violate the museum’s core principles and end the productive dialogue that this work has initiated. CAM has a history of showing controversial artists; we have shown works that have challenged common sensibilities and presented work that has critiqued, in a difficult way, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia and the military industrial complex, among other issues. Despite the debates and discomfort these exhibitions generated, we never removed them.”

September 27, 2016

Pierre Huyghe Wins the 2017 Nasher Prize

Pierre Huyghe

The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas announced today that the winner of the $100,000 Nasher Prize is French artist Pierre Huyghe.

The Nasher Prize jury, made up of a selection of international artists, art historians, curators, and museum directors—such as artist Phyllida Barlow; Lynne Cooke, senior curator at the National Gallery of Art; Steven A. Nash, founding director of the Nasher Sculpture Center; and Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council England—selected Huyghe because he “has profoundly expanded the parameters of sculpture through artworks encompassing a variety of materials and disciplines.”

The Nasher Sculpture Center’s director, Jeremy Strick, said, “We are so delighted by the choice of Pierre Huyghe as our 2017 Nasher Prize laureate. His expansive view of sculpture so wonderfully embodies the goal of the Nasher Prize, which is to champion the greatest artistic minds of our time. His incorporation of living systems, films, situations, and objects into his sculpture highlights the complexities between art and life and challenges the very limits of artmaking. And at this moment, when the environment and culture are so under threat, Huyghe’s imaginative, uncanny approach to the serious ecological and social issues facing our planet tie his oeuvre to the ancient purposes of sculpture: they possess a shamanistic quality which tips the mimetic into life.”

In reviewing the artist’s major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou three years ago, Nicolas Bourriaud suggested in Artforum’s January 2014 issue that every celebration, for Huyghe, was “also an alienation: a kind of Lacanian working-through, an experience of ritual that is simultaneously an experience of trauma—and a reflection on that trauma, a recognition of the impossibility of ever reliving the same moment again.” Huyghe will be presented with an award created by Renzo Piano, who also designed the Nasher Sculpture Center, at a ceremony in Dallas on April 1, 2017.

September 27, 2016

Cologne Will Return Drawing to Heirs of Elisabeth Linda Martens, Who Sold the Work While Fleeing the Nazis

Adolph von Menzel, Blick über die Dächer von Schandau (View over the Roofs of Schandau), 1886.

Catherine Hickley of the Art Newspaper writes that a drawing by Adolph von Menzel, Blick über die Dächer von Schandau (View over the Roofs of Schandau), 1886, sold to art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt by Elisabeth Linda Martens for the Wallraf-Richartz Museum’s collection in 1939, will be returned to Martens’s heirs. Martens likely used the money from the purchase to flee Germany, because her husband was classified as a Jew under the Nazi’s Nuremberg laws. The work was sold under duress.

Gurlitt’s collection has received a great deal of attention over the past few years because his son, Cornelius, had been hiding a trove of valuable artworks inherited from his father in his Munich apartment for decades. Some of these works were stolen by the Nazis or, indeed, taken by coercion.

Hildebrand Gurlitt purchased numerous artworks for Hitler’s Führermuseum, which the dictator was planning to build in Linz. And Gurlitt purchased many pieces from terrified Jewish families, including several more Menzel drawings from members of the same family. Last year, a German government task force for repatriating Nazi-looted works suggested that another drawing by Menzel should be returned to the relatives of Elsa Helene Cohen, Martens’s mother-in-law.

Since Cornelius Gurlitt’s death in 2014, the art collection has been stuck in a legal mire. Cornelius’s cousin, Uta Werner, challenged his soundness of mind to make a will when he bequeathed the collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern. An investigation regarding Gurlitt’s mental capacity while he was drawing up his last will and testament will be presented during a hearing in a Munich court today. A decision will likely be announced in the coming weeks.

September 27, 2016

Islamic Militant Sentenced to 9 Years in First Cultural Destruction Trial at The Hague

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi

The International Criminal Court has sentenced Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi to nine years in prison for destroying shrines in Timbuktu, Mali, in the first trial to treat the destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime, Jason Burke of The Guardian reports.

Al-Mahdi was also the first militant to stand trial at The Hague. He pleaded guilty to leading a group of religious police, called the Hisbah, and razing nine mausoleums and the door of a fifteenth-century Sidi Yahia mosque in Timbuktu in 2012.

The defendant originally faced up to thirty years in prison, but the chamber cited mitigating circumstances, including his admission of guilt, his cooperation with prosecution, his expression of remorse and empathy for the victims, his initial reluctance to commit the crime, the steps he took to limit the damage, and his good behavior while in detention, as reasons why his sentence was reduced.

“All the charges brought against me are accurate and correct,” al-Mahdi said while addressing the tribunal. He apologized to his family, the community in Timbuktu, the nation of Mali, and the international community. He added, “I am really sorry. I am really remorseful, and I regret all the damage that my actions have caused.”

Fatou Bensouda, the court’s chief prosecutor who officially launched the investigation into war crimes in Mali in January 2013, said, “Our cultural heritage is not a luxury good—we must protect it from desecration and ravages. This must be stopped in its tracks. History will not be generous to our failure to care.”

Experts have said that they hope the landmark trial will set a precedent for other countries where the ICC does not have jurisdiction, such as Syria and Iraq, and encourage them to prosecute crimes of cultural destruction.

September 26, 2016

Cardi Gallery Opens Outpost in London

Cardi Gallery

Milan-based Cardi Gallery has announced that it will open a second gallery in London on Friday, September 30. Located at 22 Grafton Street in the city’s Mayfair district, the gallery boasts more than 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. Works will be presented across six floors of the seventeenth-century townhouse that the gallery spent two years renovating.

“We are very happy for this ambitious achievement, which bears the results of the great efforts by the entire gallery staff,” director and owner Nicolo Cardi said. "Opening a venue in London with a severe and solid program is a necessity, and will be followed by other international endeavors. Being Italian, we are proud to represent, promote and protect the legacy of Italian art from the 1960s and the ’70s that has been, and still is, a great source of inspiration for young talents all over the world.”

Founded in 1972 by Renato Cardi, the gallery will open its London location with an exhibition titled “Arte Povera, American Minimalism, ZERO Group.”

September 26, 2016

Martos Gallery Los Angeles Changes Name

Martos Gallery Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles branch of Martos Gallery will transition to the second location of dealer Jose Martos’s project space Shoot the Lobster, according to Nate Freeman at Artnews. Shoot the Lobster started at Martos’s former space on West 29th Street in Chelsea before moving to its own gallery on Eldridge Street, where it remains today. The space is overseen by Martos Gallery director Ebony L. Haynes, along with artist Quintessa Matranga.

The first exhibition at Shoot the Lobster LA opened on September 22, featuring a coven of witches and magicians known as the Astral Oracles.

September 26, 2016

Moscow Exhibition Closes After Child Pornography Allegations Spark Protests

Members of the nationalist group Officers of Russia blocking the entrance to Jock Sturges’s exhibition. Photo:
maxim5rus

US photographer Jock Sturges’s exhibition “Absence of Shame,” which opened at Moscow’s Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography on September 8, has closed due to a public outcry over images of naked children, The Moscow Times reports.

Among the forty works on display were photographs of adolescents and their families living in nudist colonies in America. In a press release for the show, Sturges said, “Nudity means nothing to anybody here . . . People are naked . . . because they are naturists and spend their summers in a resort dedicated to the absence of shame.” In an interview with Russia’s Ren TV, he said, “Galleries and museums across the world haven’t seen these photos as pornography. It simply isn't the case.”

Members of the nationalist group Officers of Russia, who are calling the exhibition child pornography, blocked the entrance to the venue on Sunday. A Russian children’s rights organization also spoke out against the show. One activist, a man pretending to be a journalist, entered the center and threw a bottle filled with urine mixed with acetone at the works. He was arrested and charged with hooliganism.

Curator Natalia Litvinskaya said that the decision to end the show had “nothing to do with pedophilia” and that it was canceled because of “threats from absolutely delusional people.” She added that there were no demands from the police or the authorities to close the exhibition, despite Federation Council member Yelena Mizulina’s request that the prosecutor-general investigate the exhibition and its organizers.

Sturges’s photographs have also elicited strong reactions in the United States. In 1990, the FBI raided his San Francisco studio and confiscated cameras, equipment, and works, but he was not charged.