2016 David C. Driskell Prize Awarded to Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford

Robin Scher of Artnews reports that Mark Bradford has been given the 2016 David C. Driskell Prize from the High Museum of Art. The prize was initiated in 2005, and it was the first prize in the United States to acknowledge significant contributions from African American artists.

Bradford, whose work resides in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New York’s Guggenheim Museum, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among other institutions, will be given $25,000 at a reception for the artist on April 29.

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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.

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.