October 5, 2015

Olga Hirshhorn (1920–2015)

Olga Hirshhorn

Martin Weil reports in the Washington Post that the philanthropist and collector Olga Hirshhorn, widow of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s founder Joseph Hirshhorn, died over the weekend in Naples, Florida.

Hirshhorn was close with some of the twentieth century’s most important artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, and Pablo Picasso, the latter of which signed one of his works “To Olga with love.” Born in 1920 in Greenwich, Connecticut as Olga Zatorsky to immigrants from Eastern Europe, she founded an agency that serviced wealthy residents of the town and it was through his admiration for her business acumen that Hirshhorn was drawn to her. After Joseph Hirshhorn’s death in 1981, she carried on with their collection and philanthropy, including serving on the Hirshhorn Museum’s board as well as the board of the Corcoran School of Art in addition to supporting many other museum projects, art associations, and women’s groups. Her own personal collection of art has a permanent home at the Baker Museum in Naples.

October 5, 2015

Labor Strike Ends at London’s National Gallery

National Gallery

After months of ongoing strikes that first started last January, labor union members have announced that they’ve reached an agreement with the National Gallery’s management, according to Nick Clark in the Independent. The Public and Commercial Services Union’s members apparently voted unanimously to suspend the strike and return to work.

However, the museum’s contract with the private firm Securitas, who will be taking over the visitor services division of the gallery, will go into effect as planned in November. The outsourcing of labor to this company was at the heart of the union’s dispute with the institution. The union said it “regretted” the contract would be honored, but was satisfied that the museum and the private contractor had agreed to protect union laborers’ terms and conditions. Candy Udwin, a senior union representative who was dismissed from the museum, will also be reinstated as part of the agreement between the union and the National Gallery.

October 5, 2015

Executive Director of Hong Kong’s M+ to Step Down

Lars Nittve

After delays to the museum’s opening date and stating he had “no plans to remain after the opening,” the executive director of Hong Kong’s M+ museum, Lars Nittve, will be stepping down at the end of his current contract in January 2016, according to the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority. Nittve joined the institution’s team in 2011, during which time the museum’s collection grew to over 4,300 works and the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron won a competition to design the museum’s building. After five years with the institution however, Nittve has stated “I have to accept that…there are still another four years of very hard work remaining until the opening of M+. I believe I should either commit to all those years – or accept that this is the right time to hand over to someone else. After much consideration I have decided to do the latter.”

October 5, 2015

ISIS Destroys ‘Arch of Triumph’ Monument in Palmyra

Arch of Triumph in Palmyra

After destroying the main temple of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra in Syria, ISIS have now managed to destroy Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph monument, according to a report by Reuters published in the New York Times. Though certified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Islamic state militants have controlled the territory since overpowering Syrian government forces in May.

It has also been confirmed that earlier this month the militants destroyed some of the most well preserved of Palmyra’s funeral towers, which were sandstone constructions built to hold the remains of the city’s richest families. In the area ISIS currently controls across Syria and Iraq, it is waging a campaign to erase monuments they consider pagan and sacrilegious. UNESCO has designated such acts as war crimes.

October 4, 2015

Ai Weiwei Discovers Listening Devices Hidden in Studio Walls

Image from Ai Weiwei’s Instagram feed

Has artist Ai Weiwei’s studio been bugged? The dissident artist has been documenting on social media what he believes are listening devices that were hidden in the walls of his building, according to William McLennan in The Independent. Ai had only recently arrived home after being in London last month for the opening of his Royal Academy exhibition, and discovered the alleged surveillance equipment while beginning renovations on his Beijing studio.

Via his Twitter and Instagram feeds, he posted pictures and videos of one device (accompanied by the comment “ha ha”) and then later showed fireworks exploding in a bin next to the device, with the caption: “Can you hear this?”

His trip to London was his first time overseas in four years, after the Chinese government returned his passport three months ago as Artforum.com previously reported here.

October 3, 2015

Catherine Taft Named Deputy Director at LA><ART

Catherine Taft

Catherine Taft has been named deputy director of LA><ART. A frequent contributor to Artforum, among many other publications, Taft was most recently assistant curator at the Whitney Museum in New York. She was also previously curatorial associate in the department of architecture and contemporary art at the Getty Research Institute, where she helped organize “Pacific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles,” 2011.

LA><ART is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit art space. Founded by Lauri Firstenberg, it has operated for over a decade and has recently featured exhibitions by artists including Zoe Crosher, Melanie Schiff, Mark Hagen, and Galia Linn.

October 3, 2015

University of Connecticut Eliminates Curator and Director Positions at Schlippe Gallery

Alexey von Schlippe Gallery

In another hit to college art programs, the University of Connecticut is eliminating the curator and director position at its art museum, the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art, at Avery Point. Julia Pavone has held that post since she co-founded the gallery twenty-three years ago with David Madasci, reports The Day’s Kristina Dorsey. “It was such a shock,” said Pavone, who will stay on staff until August of next year, thanks to union rules.

The school’s dean of fine arts, Anne D’Alleva, attributed the changes to severe budget cuts due to the state’s monetary situation, which mean that UConn has to re-focus its efforts and funding to make sure students could complete their degrees.

“This is no way reflects on the value of the von Schlippe gallery. I think it’s done a wonderful job educating students and reaching out to the public,” said D’Alleva.

A permanent collection of 500 works was given to the gallery by the family of Alexey von Schlippe, who taught at the school. The school hasn’t yet determined in what form the gallery will continue once Pavone steps down.

October 2, 2015

Worcester Art Museum Receives $4 Million Gift to Endow Directorship

Jean McDonough

The Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts, has received a gift of $4 million from the Myles & C. Jean McDonough Foundation—on behalf of C. Jean McDonough—to endow its position of director. As a long-standing supporter of the museum, Jean McDonough’s gift to the museum is among a series of donations totaling $15.25 million being made by the foundation to cultural institutions throughout Worcester and central Massachusetts. The current director of the museum is Matthias Waschek, who will now officially be known as the C. Jean and Myles McDonough director of the institution.

October 2, 2015

MoMA Announces New Associate Curator of Film

La Frances Hui

The Museum of Modern Art today announced that La Frances Hui is their new associate curator of film. Hui comes to MoMA after fifteen years at the Asia Society in New York, where she was the film curator and associate director of cultural programs. While there, she curated film series that spanned a wide spectrum of Chinese cinema, Japanese documentaries, Japanese New Wave, contemporary Thai, New Wave Iranian, and popular Korean cinema. She also organized retrospectives on the work of directors like Tsai Ming-Liang, Jafar Panahi, Midi Z, and Shohei Imamura.

Rajendra Roy, MoMA’s chief curator of film, said of Hui’s appointment: “La's rich knowledge of Asian cinema, combined with her unique professional experience in program development and implementation, will afford us with critical opportunities to engage with a spectrum of moving image artists in ever more essential ways.”