Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum, has been named the recipient of the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence, reports Andrew Russeth of the New York Observer. The $25,000 prize is bestowed annually by the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College; previous winners include Marcia Tucker, Paul Schimmel, Walter Hopps, and Alanna Heiss. Esche assumed his role at the Van Abbemuseum in 2004 and over the past decade has acted in a range of curatorial capacities outside the museum. Notably, in 2010, he established the Internationale Confederation with six other institutions, which aims to construct a pan-European modern and contemporary art institution by 2017. Esche is also organizing the 2014 São Paulo Bienal.
Mikhail Baryshnikov, founder and artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, has announced that he will open a campaign to raise $1 million for artistic fellowships, reports Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times. The funding will provide artists a place to work in Baryshnikov’s Studio 6A, a forty-three-foot-by-forty-three-foot space, which will be named the John Cage and Merce Cunningham Studio. “I want to pay tribute to what [Cage and Cunningham] achieved together,” said Baryshnikov of the venture, “an iconic example of artistic partnership, a creative duo working together over fifty years.” Awarded annually beginning in December 2015, the $50,000 Cage Cunningham Fellowship will enable an exemplary and innovative contemporary artistor company or other group of collaborators, including filmmakers, dramaturges, choreographers, and composers—to experiment and create work over two years.
Philippe Vergne has been chosen as the new director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Deborah Vankin and Mike Boehm. Previously the director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York, Vergne will fill the position left vacant by Jeffrey Deitch, who departed after a rocky tenure that he ended, two years into his five-year contract. Vergne was chosen by a committee headed by board chairs Maria Bell and David Johnson, along with Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts president Joel Wachs. Notably, the committee also included artists John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie, and Ed Ruscha—all of whom resigned from LA MoCA’s board in 2012 in protest against the direction the museum had taken under Deitch.
As Jori Finkel and Randy Kennedy note in the New York Times, Vergne is a veteran curator who served as director of the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Marseille from 1994 to 1997, and later as a senior curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. For a short time, he headed the private François Pinault Foundation for contemporary art, but then returned to the Walker as deputy director and chief curator. He was also one of the 2006 Whitney Biennial curators. Finkel and Kennedy point out that Vergne himself has been at the center of recent controversy: He put up works from Dia’s collection for auctionworks by artists including Cy Twombly, John Chamberlain, and Barnett Newman. But the search committee was enthusiastic. Kruger praised Vergne for having both the “intelligence, vision, and ambition to lead LA MoCA forward” and a “deep understanding of artists and the art they make.”
The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), a nonprofit arts organization founded by John Cage and Jasper Johns, has announced the recipients of its annual awards. Fourteen unrestricted grants of $30,000 each—a total of $420,000—will be given to individual artists and one collective in the United States. Along with this cycle of grant awardees, the winners of the John Cage award and the Robert Rauschenberg award were announced: The John Cage award recipient is Phill Niblock, a composer active in the avant-garde music scene since the 1950s, who will receive $50,000 in recognition of his multilayered performance installations that incorporate simultaneous events in sound, film, video, and photography. Meanwhile, the Robert Rauschenberg award winner is Elodie Lauten, who will receive $30,000 for her work across genres including opera, electronic, vocal, chamber, and orchestral music. This year’s remaining grantees are as follows:
Lance Gries, New York, NY
Trajal Harrell, New York, NY
Heather Kravas, Seattle, WA
Okwui Okpokwasili, Brooklyn, NY
James Fei, Oakland, CA
Jeph Jerman, Cottonwood, AZ
John King, New York, NY
Black-Eyed Susan, New York, NY
Matthew Goulish and Lin Hixson, Chicago, IL
Annie-B Parson, Brooklyn, NY
Ted Greenwald, New York, NY
Eileen Myles, New York, NY
Wardell Milan, New York, NY
Cauleen Smith, Chicago, IL
Mary Abbe reports in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Darsie Alexander, the chief curator of the Walker Art Center, will be stepping down from her post after a five-year tenure at the Walker; she will move to New York and work as executive director of the Katonah Art Museum. At the Walker, Alexander negotiated the purchase of the Merce Cunningham dance troupe’s 3,000-item archive, and oversaw exhibitions ranging from “Absentee Landlord,” curated by John Waters, to “Benches & Binoculars,” a show that invited visitors to peer at artworks hung floor to ceiling through binoculars. Alexander has previously served as senior curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art and photo curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
A museum spokesperson said that the Walker had “no immediate plans for a search to fill [her] post.” According to Abbe, the museum will be “looking at its structure and considering a number of options” following Alexander’s departure.
Carol Vogel notes in the New York Times that the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be renaming its Costume Institute the Anna Wintour Costume Center, in honor of the Vogue editor in chief who has served as a trustee of the Met since 1999 and raised around $125 million for the institution. As part of her fundraising efforts, she helped bring in the $40 million needed to renovate of the institute, which will reopen on May 8 with its main gallery redesigned, its conservation lab renovated, and storage and study spaces expanded. Wintour has presided over fifteen benefits at the institute since 1995, transforming the galas into star-studded, carefully watched events.
Residents for the 2014 Live Arts Bard program have been announced, as well as a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will go toward funding the program. Sarah Michelson, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Geoff Sobelle, and Nilaja Sun have been selected for the program, which provides residencies for artists making works that span and transcend fields of theater, performance, dance, music, film, and live art.
The grant is intended to expand the program’s capacity to integrate choreographers into the university’s pedagogy. Sarah Michelson will be the first choreographer to begin a four-year fellowship allowing her to develop a commissioned, collaborative work with Bard students and professional dancers. The project will premiere at the Fisher Center the summer of 2017. Jack Ferver and Ralph Lemon have been selected for semester-long fellowships slated for the 2014-15 season. Said president Leon Botstein: “We’re deeply grateful for this generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It will enable Bard to expand on its commitment to offering rigorous programs in the performing arts for our undergraduates, while also supporting working artists through fellowships and the creative interactions that take place in a liberal-arts setting.”
Carol Vogel of the New York Times reports that plans to build an outpost of the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki, Finland have been reinstated after they were canceled in May of 2012. Land on the city’s South Harbor waterfront has now been reserved for the $185 million museum. An international competition to commission an architect will commence this spring, which the museum hopes “will provide an opportunity to deepen public discussion surrounding the proposed museum.’’ Said a museum spokesperson, “We also believe it will bring Helsinki the heightened level of international attention the city deserves as a vibrant cultural center.’’
Richard Maxwell has been given the Spalding Gray Award, which includes a $20,000 commission to create a new work that will be given a full production at P.S. 122, the Andy Warhol Museum, Seattle’s On the Boards, and the Walker Art Center. Each of these institutions are part of the consortium that oversees the prize. Allan Kozinn of the New York Times reports that Maxwell had already mapped out his commissioned work, which is provisionally titled The Custodian of a Man. The piece details an ambiguous relationship between a convalescing martial arts performer and his caretaker. Choreographer Sarah Michelson has been recruited to design the production. Said Philip Bither, senior curator for performing arts at the Walker: “Over the past two decades, Richard Maxwell has developed a distinctive and essential voice. His influence on theater and contemporary performance, both in the US and abroad, has been profound. Personally, I find his spare, poetic language, and the stripped-to-the-bone directorial approach he applies to his plays to be tremendously powerful.”