Pirro Cuniberti (1923–2016)

Pirro Cuniberti

Pirro Cuniberti, a designer famous for the highly sought-after “PR” floor lamp made for the firm Sirrah in 1970, as well as a painter of delicate and eccentric abstractions whose later works call to mind Giorgio Griffa and his hero, Paul Klee, died on Friday, March 4.

Cuniberti graduated from Bologna’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1948, where he studied under Giovanni Romagnoli and Giorgio Morandi. That same year he went to work for motorcycle manufacturer Ducati in their publicity department. Also that year, he went to the first Venice Biennale after World War II to see the work of Vincent van Gogh (whose work he discovered as a soldier during the war), and instead came upon Paul Klee—an experience so transformative to him as an artist that he referred to Klee from then on as his “daddy.” In 1957 he had his first solo exhibition at the Circolo Culturale in Bologna.

Other major exhibitions for Cuniberti include the Quadriennale of Rome in 1965 and 1972; the XII Premio Spoleto in 1966; a survey at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara in 1991; and another survey at Bologna’s Museo Archeologico in 2003, which ended up traveling to the Casa del Mantegna in Mantova that same year. His first major solo exhibition in the United States was at New York’s ESSO Gallery in 2008.


June 29, 2016

Rauschenberg Foundation Names 2016 Artist as Activist Fellows

Los Angeles Poverty Department, Chasing Monsters from Under the Bed, 2015

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has announced the recipients of its 2016 Artist as Activist fellowships—a two-year grant program established to support artists and collectives who address social issues in their practices. The winners will receive between $50,000 and $100,000.

This year’s ten fellows, selected from a pool of 228, include Maria Gaspar, The Graduates, Titus Kaphar, Los Angeles Poverty Department, Jeremy Robins/Echoes of Incarceration, Favianna Rodriguez, Paul Rucker, El Sawyer, jackie sumell, and Shontina Vernon.

The artists—who are based in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Seattle—have developed projects that confront issues surrounding mass incarceration such as the impact juvenile detention has on the youth and the psychological effect of solitary confinement.

Among the various projects are Favianna Rodriguez’s questioning of the intersection between mass imprisonment and immigrant detention; Los Angeles Poverty Department’s Public Safety FOR REAL, which develops an alternate conception of public safety that includes community policing vehicles that maintain respect for their neighbors on Skid Row—one of the largest populations of homeless people in the US; and Maria Gaspar’s RADIOACTIVE: Stories from Beyond the Wall, which connects the largest jail in the United States, Chicago’s Cook County Jail, with residents in the surrounding area through a series of radio broadcasts and projections.

June 29, 2016

Liverpool Biennial Site Targeted By Arsonist

Fire engulfing a saw mill in Liverpool.

The Liverpool Biennial was forced to find a new location for Turner-Prize-Winning artist Mark Leckey’s video installation after the saw mill where the work was going to be displayed was engulfed in flames last week, Catherine Jones of Echo reports. Authorities confirmed that the fire at the Wolstenholme Square building was started deliberately, and an arson investigation is currently underway.

Firefighters were called to the scene around 7:00 PM on June 24 and fought the blaze for over fifteen hours. The derelict building, which housed the former dance club called Cream for fourteen years, was severely damaged. However, no one was injured.

Sally Tallant, the biennial’s artistic director, said, the fair was disappointed about the turn of events, but is excited to announce that Leckey’s Dream English Kid—a film assembled using archival footage from television shows, advertisements, and music, to create a record of all the significant events of his life from the 1970s until the 1990s—will be presented at the Blade Factory and Camp and Furnace.

The biennial will kickoff on July 9 and run until October 16. It will take place at various spaces across the city.

June 29, 2016

Chapter NY to Upgrade to Bigger Space on East Houston Street

Chapter NY

Chapter NY, a Henry Street gallery owned and managed by Nicole Russo, will relocate to East Houston Street, Andrew Russeth of Artnews reports. Opening in September, the new venue will have about three times the exhibition space than its current home. Works by Paul Heyer will make up the inaugural show. “It took me about a year to find this space,” Russo said of the 249 East Houston Street brownstone. Yet, the gallerist is fond of the 250-square-foot home that Chapter is vacating and hopes it will stay in the arts community. It has already been occupied by Bureau Gallery and Dispatch—a New York-based curatorial partnership between Howie Chen and Gabrielle Giattino established in 2007. “I hope somebody else takes it,” Russo said. “I think it has such good karma.”

June 29, 2016

Street Art Mural Stirs Controversy in France

The State Beating Liberty, a mural by Goin, was on view in Grenoble last week.

A temporary mural painted in the context of a street-art festival in Grenoble drew angry commentaries and calls for immediate removal last week. The painting, by French street artist Goin, depicts two armed police officers wielding batons over a woman holding the French flag. The cowering female closely resembles “Marianne,” the ubiquitous symbol of Republican France whose profile is the country’s official government logo and whose likeness also appears on French euro coins.

“To represent the police clubbing Marianne, and therefore the Republic when...no less than ten days ago, they gave their lives for France, is outrageous!” said Patrick Mairesse, the departmental director of public safety, referring to the June 13 murder of two French police officers by a gunman who pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Chiming in on Twitter, Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s minister of the interior, gave his “full support to the police that protect the people of Grenoble every day.” Cazeneuve, along with other politicians and civilians have publicly called for Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle to apologize for the mural.

The mayor’s office responded to an inquiry by Le Figaro with a statement supporting freedom of expression, a right protected by law in France. “The city has no authority to intervene and pass jugement on this artwork.” The spokesperson, however, did emphasize that “the mural was not commissioned by the city.”

The mural, The State Beating Liberty, remained for the duration of Street Art Fest Grenoble and was then removed as planned.

June 29, 2016

Strong Results at Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale Allay Post-“Brexit” Fears

Jenny Saville’s Shift, 1996–1997.

Sotheby’s evening contemporary sale sold 87 percent of its forty-six lots last night, bringing in a total of $69.4 million, according to the New York Times’ Robin Pogrebin and Scott Reyburn. The results, for many, put fears to rest that post-Brexit financial chaos would seep into the art market. The Long Museum, Shanghai, purchased a painting by Jenny Saville for about $9 million, setting an auction record for the British artist. Meanwhile, Keith Haring’s The Last Rainforest, 1989, sold for $5.6 million, going over its high estimate. It had been in photographer David LaChapelle’s collection. And artist Adrian Ghenie’s Self-Portrait as a Monkey, 2011, sold three times over its pre-sale estimate.

An art adviser, Elizabeth Szancer, said, “This evening, Sotheby’s did well, and Brexit was not in the auction room.” Meanwhile, a private art dealer, Alex Lachmann, told the Times, “Wealthy people make money in this kind of crisis and they’re looking to buy important things. The exchange rate was very important. There were a lot of American buyers.”

June 29, 2016

Stedelijk Museum Receives Major Donation of 600 Artworks

Wolfgang Tillmans, Deranged Granny (Self), 1995, photograph, 84 x 56”.

Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum announced that it received a major gift of over 600 contemporary artworks from the German collector Thomas Borgmann. An exhibition featuring these works is slated for November 2017.

Some of the artists included in Borgmann’s donation are Cosima von Bonin, Cerith Wyn Evans, Jack Goldstein, Jutta Koether, Lucy McKenzie, Paulina Olowska, Jorge Pardo, John Stezaker, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Christopher Williams.

Said Borgmann about the gift, “I have closely followed the Stedelijk ever since my first visit in the 1960s; this museum felt like a natural home for these works. The Stedelijk has always impressed me with its thorough knowledge and high professional standards. The dedication and care for the collection are a wonderful combination with the dynamic and daring exhibition program. With this donation I would like to underscore my close relationship with the museum and Beatrix Ruf.”

June 29, 2016

Arrest Made for Theft of $250,000 Worth of Art from Trailer in LA

A picture of the stolen trailer that contained the artwork.

Following up on a story artforum.com reported on this past January, a man by the name of Robert Michael Slayton was arrested in Los Angeles’s Canoga Park neighborhood for the November 2015 theft of a trailer that had $250,000 worth of art in it by artists such as Chagall and Matisse, reports Veronica Rocha of the Los Angeles Times.

The trailer, which was stripped, was found in Slayton’s backyard. He was taken into custody on June 16, 2016 on suspicion of grand theft, then released only hours later on $70,000 bail.

Thus far, about $120,000 worth of the missing art was recovered.

June 29, 2016

Getty Research Institute Names Fiona Tan 2016–2017 Artist in Residence

Fiona Tan

The Getty Research Institute has announced that Fiona Tan will be the artist in residence for its 2016–2017 scholars program according to Robin Scher at Artnews. The institute’s annual research program will host forty-six scholars along with Tan at the Getty Center and Villa in Los Angeles, organized around the theme of “Art and Anthropology.”

Tan works in Amsterdam and her practice uses film and video to examine issues of identity, globalization, and collective histories. The program head Alexa Sekyra said in a statement about the residency: “In asking scholars open-ended questions about their disciplines, methodologies, and their relationships to other fields of research, we received top-tier proposals that span continents and eras. I’m excited to see the great work that will come out of this incoming group of exceptional researchers.”

June 29, 2016

Architect Michael Graves’s Residence and Studio Sold to Kean University

Michael Graves’s compound the Warehouse in Princeton, New Jersey.

Joshua Barone reports in the New York Times that three properties constituting the former residence and studio of architect Michael Graves will be bought by Kean University, where he helped to found the Michael Graves School of Architecture, for $20. The properties are in Princeton, New Jersey, where Graves founded his firm in 1964, and were originally gifted through Graves’s will to Princeton University but the institution rejected the gift.

The university said in a statement: “We were grateful to be able to consider the possibility of accepting Michael Graves’s properties, but concluded that we could not meet the terms and conditions associated with the gift.” The terms stipulated by his will included preserving the buildings and coordinating their use for educational purposes, a cost that Kean was apparently willing to take on. As the architect’s will stated that if Princeton did not accept the gift, it would be offered to another nonprofit, Graves’s firm approached Kean, which is located in Union, New Jersey, about purchasing the properties this year. That university’s president, Dawood Farahi, said that their annual maintenance was estimated at $30,000 to $40,000, and converting the buildings for students would cost about $300,000. The three properties have been appraised at a total value of nearly $3.2 million.

Collectively called the Warehouse, the house and studio will now be a resource center for studying the architect’s work as well as a space for lectures and studio education. It will also still be open to Princeton students, as the properties are adjacent to Princeton’s campus.

For more on Graves’s work and legacy, see our Passages column for pieces by Stan Allen and Glenn Adamson.