November 23, 2015

Edgar Arceneaux Wins Performa 15’s Malcolm McLaren Award

Edgar Arceneaux with his Malcolm McLaren Award.

Edgar Arceneaux was awarded Performa’s Malcolm McLaren award last night for his Performa 15 commission Until, Until, Until..., an homage to Broadway legend Ben Vereen’s 1981 performance at Ronald Reagan’s televised inaugural celebration. Arceneaux’s work was based on five minutes of the performance footage that did not air that night due to its referencing of the history of segregation and racist stereotypes.

The prize was created in 2010 in honor of the late artist, designer, and music impresario Malcolm McLaren. Previous winners include Ragnar Kjartansson in 2011 for Bliss and Ryan McNamara in 2013 for MEƎM: A Story Ballet About the Internet.

November 23, 2015

Lyons Light Festival Canceled Due to Paris Attacks

Daniel Knipper installation at Lyons Festival of Lights.

Coming on the heels of a few temporary closures of art institutions in Paris after the terrorist attacks there, the Festival of Lights in Lyon, France has announced that it will be canceled this year, according to a report by Victoria Stapley-Brown in the Art Newspaper. The festival, which was planned for December 5-8, is considered Lyons’s biggest annual event but has been pushed back until 2016. In a statement, the Mayor of Lyons said “we have decided that the festival of lights could not take place in its usual form—festive, poetic, light-hearted.”

A few planned events on December 8 will go ahead though, including a light installation by artist Daniel Knipper featuring digitized details from famous paintings. That same night, the city will also hold its traditional candlelight ceremony, “in a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris,” according to its website.

November 23, 2015

London’s National Gallery Threatened With Lawsuit Over Matisse Painting

*Henri Matisse, Portrait of Greta Moll, 1908, oil on canvas, 29 x 27".

Henri Matisse’s Portrait of Greta Moll, 1908, is currently at the heart of a heated debate between the descendants of the portrait’s subject, and the current owners of the painting: London’s National Gallery. Moll’s descendants have now threatened the National Gallery with legal action after the museum rejected a return request filed by the family’s attorney.

The painting was bought by the museum in 1979, two years after Greta Moll’s death, but Moll’s family insists that the work was stolen and sold without permission by a family friend who took it to Switzerland shortly after the war for safekeeping. The National Gallery denies any wrong on its part, arguing that a theft of the painting has never been proven, and that even if it was, the institution would still be under no obligation to return the work. According to a museum spokesman, “The gallery is in fact prohibited from making transfers of paintings in its collection…the gallery remains—by virtue of the purchase in 1979—the legal owner of the painting which it holds for the nation.”

The painting was commissioned by Oskar Moll, the husband of Greta Moll, in 1908 after the couple befriended Matisse in Paris.

November 23, 2015

Palestinian Artist Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia

Former Tate Modern director Chris Dercon and artist Ashram Fayadh.

Angus McDowell reports in the Independent that the Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh has been sentenced to death by Saudi Arabian authorities after almost two years of imprisonment. According to trial documents, the main charge against Fayadh is apostasy, or abandoning his Muslim faith. He was originally detained by the country’s religious police in 2013, then rearrested and tried in early 2014. The initial verdict of the courts sentenced him to four years in prison and 800 lashes, but after an appeal another judge ordered a death sentence for him. He has thirty days to appeal the new ruling

Fayadh’s conviction was based on evidence given by a prosecution witness, who claimed to have heard him cursing god, the prophet Mohammad, and Saudi Arabia; as well as the content of Fayadh’s 2008 book of poetry Instruction Within. As Saudi Arabia’s justice system is based on Sharia Islamic law and its judges’ interpretation of the law stems from a conservative, Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia, religious crimes including blasphemy and apostasy can incur the death penalty. A convicted defendant can be pardoned by King Salman.

Fayadh is a member of Edge of Arabia, a British Saudi art organization, which just last week installed two murals at the United Nations in collaboration with Art Jameel, supporting women in southwest Saudi Arabia. The exhibition is titled “Our Mother's House.” The two groups were also highlighted at the 2015 Armory Show’s Focus section.

An online petition advocating his release states “We condemn these acts of intimidation targeting Ashraf Fayadh as part of a wider campaign inciting hate against writers and using Islam to justify oppression and to crush free speech.”

November 20, 2015

Masked Thieves Steal Seventeen Paintings from Museum in Verona

Castelvecchio, Verona

Masked robbers broke into the Castelvecchio, one of Verona’s most visited museums, and stole seventeen paintings, worth up to an estimated sixteen million dollars, just before the museum closed for the evening yesterday, according to Elisabetta Povoledo in the New York Times.

The thieves approached before alarms had been turned on, entering and tying up the evening watchman alongside another employee. The thieves have been captured on the museum’s closed-circuit surveillance system. Works by Mantegna and Rubens, as well as five pieces by Jacopo Tintoretto, are among the pieces now missing.

November 20, 2015

Michael McGinnis, President of Phillips Auction House, Resigns

Michael McGinnis

As reported yesterday by Katya Kazakina of Bloomberg, Michael McGinnis, president of Phillips, is leaving the auction house after sixteen years. His last day of work will be November 30.

McGinnis started the contemporary art department at Phillips in 1999. He later became chief executive officer in 2012. And in 2014, he became president once CEO Edward Dolman came aboard.

“Michael built an incredible foundation that we can all build on. He was instrumental in helping me transition into this role—always offering the highest level of counsel and dedication to Phillips,” said Dolman. “I am extremely grateful for the many years of work that Michael has contributed to the company.”

November 20, 2015

MIT Commissions Antony Gormley to Create Site-Specific Work on Campus

Antony Gormley

MIT recently awarded Antony Gormley a commission via Percent-for-Art. The work—a large, winding form made from sundry polyhedra—is a site-specific piece that will be installed in a staircase of Building 2, which currently houses parts of the chemistry department and the mathematics department.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a physical manifestation of geometry for the staircase of the Mathematics Department at MIT. It is an engineering challenge, the outcome of which will, I hope, act as a spatial catalyst for both the space of the stairwell and a focus for people using the stairs,” states Gormley.

November 20, 2015

Israel Museum Acquires Collection of Contemporary Israeli Photography

Rona Yefman, Bunnies, 2010

The Israel Museum today announced an acquisition of fifty-five works by contemporary Israeli artists thanks to a partial gift of Shalom Shpilman. Shpilman—whose collection is the source of the art—is also the patron who created the museum’s Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography.

Yossi Breger, Dganit Berest, Yehudit Sasportas, Dor Guez, Assaf Shacham, Michal Heiman, Ilit Azoulay, Micha Bar Am, and Rona Yefman are some of the artists included in the new acquisition. The collection will go on display in the museum’s “New in Photography,” 2016 exhibition.

November 20, 2015

National Portrait Gallery of London to Receive Major Donation from Lucian Freud Estate

Lucien Freud

England’s National Portrait Gallery will receive a $4.5 million donation from the estate of Lucian Freud that consists of letters, sketchbooks, and over one hundred drawings the artist made during childhood, as a substitute for paying an inheritance tax, says Mark Brown of The Guardian.

“The acceptance in lieu scheme has been enriching our museums and galleries for over a century, as does this latest offer from Lucian Freud’s estate,” said chair of Arts Council England, Sir Peter Bazalgette.

It’s not the first time the artist’s estate has donated works: Forty Frank Auerbach paintings and drawings from Freud’s collection are going to galleries around the UK.