November 11, 2015

Qatar to Open Slavery Museum in Doha

Doha skyline

As part of Doha’s Msheirib Downtown project, Qatar is inaugurating a museum that explores the topic of slavery. The museum will include a historical focus, examining the evolution of slavery around the Indian Ocean, with exhibits that investigate the pearl trade and the “Underground Railroad” that allowed slaves to escape to Bahrain, as well as an archive of documents that include first-person testimonies of enslaved people.

But also, according to Matthew Hall in the Atlantic Council, the museum will feature a “Modern Slavery” wing with a placard that reads “Many construction workers in rapidly industrializing parts of the world, especially the Gulf region, are considered to be contractually enslaved.”

Hall noted that “94 percent of the workforce is foreign” in Qatar, and the country is among the Gulf nations that have come under scrutiny for workers’ rights abuses. As Al Arabiya reported, the country has faced criticism for its “controversial ‘kafala’ system that binds workers to their employer.”

November 11, 2015

Cengiz Çekil (1945–2015)

Cengiz Çekil

Turkish artist Cengiz Çekil has died. After graduating from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Çekil staged his first solo show in a basement cafe in 1975. He went on to participate in the Istanbul Biennial twice, as well as Manifesta 5, and also saw his work featured in group shows at Mechelen, Belgium; the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro; and MAK in Vienna. His work is also in the permanent collection at New York’s MoMA.

As Kaelen Wilson-Goldie wrote in Artforum, Çekil was “widely regarded as a founding father of Turkish contemporary art.”

November 11, 2015

Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Sale Brings In $331.8 Million

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997

Christie’s auction house brought in $331.8 million in its postwar and contemporary sale on Tuesday night. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow, Andy Warhol’s Four Marilyns, 1962, went to a telephone bidder in Asia for $32 million, though the auction house guaranteed the quadruple portrait’s previous owner, Turkish financier Kemal Cingillioglu, $40 million. (Four out of the six available Warhols failed to sell, reports the New York Times.) Meanwhile Lucian Freud’s The Brigadier, 2003-2004, fetched $31 million, slightly above estimate.

Spatial Concept, The End of God, 1964, a yellow egg-shaped Lucio Fontana piece, sold for $25.9 million. According to Bloomberg, it was a record for the postwar Italian artist, exceeding the $24.7 million record set for a similar work around a month ago at Sotheby’s. A Louise Bourgeois piece also reached an all-time high price for the artist’s work; her sculpture Spider, 1997, sold for $28.2 million. Of the total lots, 80 percent sold, with records being broken for seven artists.

November 10, 2015

2015 United States Artists Fellows Announced

Mickalene Thomas

The 2015 United States Artists fellows have been revealed. Fellowship winners in nine disciplines will be receiving fifty-thousand-dollar unrestricted grants. Thirty-seven recipients in total were chosen from over 400 nominated artists living in the United States and US Territories. Over twenty million dollars have been awarded through the USA fellows program since its founding.

This year’s fellows are:

November 10, 2015

Council Rejects Plan to Convert South London Parking Lot into 800 Artists Studios

View of Bold Tendencies exhibition in Peckham parking lot

The Southwark Council in South London has rejected plans to convert a multi-story parking lot into 800 affordable art studios, according to the Art Newspaper’s Anny Shaw. Tate Modern’s outgoing director, Chris Dercon, and the UK culture minister, Ed Vaizey, had both voiced support for the project, but the council opted instead to structure into retail and event spaces. (The project chosen instead will have fifty studios and workshops.)

The site’s proposed transformation into affordable art studios was formulated by a former adviser to the British prime minister David Cameron, Rohan Silva, in collaboration with Hannah Barry, the founder of the non-profit arts institution Bold Tendencies. Silva and Barry were hoping to enlist the help of the Turner Prize-nominated artist collective, Assemble, in the redesign.

“The council’s decision represents a blow for artists who are being forced out of the capital as studio spaces are vacated and redeveloped,” wrote Shaw. “In the next five years, 30 percent of studios in London are expected to disappear.”

November 10, 2015

Ernst Fuchs (1930–2015)

Ernst Fuchs, Crucification and Self-Portrait, with Inge Beside the Cross, 1945

A co-founder of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, Austrian painter Ernst Fuchs, has died, according to the BBC. Known for his mysticism and recognizable with his beard and patterned caps, Fuchs also founded the Pintorarium with Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Arnulf Rainer. In 1972 he acquired the Otto Wagner Villa in Hütteldorf and turned it into the Ernst Fuchs Museum.

A retrospective exhibition featuring his work appeared at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg in 1993, and his art is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2010 he received the Golden Medal of Honor for his services to the city of Vienna.

November 9, 2015

Performance Artist Arrested After Setting Fire to Federal Building in Moscow

Petr Pavlensky

A Russian artist and activist by the name of Petr Pavlensky has been arrested after he set aflame the main entrance of the Federal Security Service building in Lubyanka Square in Moscow last Sunday night, according to a report by Alyona Lapina at the Art Newspaper. The act was apparently part of a performance piece called Threat.

Of his performance, Pavlensky said in a statement: “Burning the door of Lubyanka is a glove that society throws in the face of the terrorist threat. Federal Security Service operates through uninterrupted terror and holds power over 146 million people…fear turns free people into a sticky mass of disparate bodies. An inevitable reprisal threatens everyone who is within the reach of surveillance, eavesdropping devices, and passport control borders. Military courts eliminate any manifestation of a free will. But terrorism can only exist based on the animal instinct of fear.”

Pavlensky was taken into official custody and two journalists who documented the performance, Vladimir Romensky and Nigina Beroeva, were also detained so that they could serve as witnesses. The artist has already been on trial for vandalism after his 2014 performance Freedom in St. Petersburg, in which he led the building of a makeshift barricade on the Tripartite Bridge.

November 9, 2015

Brooklyn Museum Responds to Controversy Over Hosting Real Estate Conference

Brooklyn Museum

Colin Moynihan reports in the New York Times that the Brooklyn Museum’s director Anne Pasternak, in response to a circulating open letter addressed to the institution criticizing its decision to rent the museum out to organizers of a real estate conference, has released a statement on Tumblr responding to the controversy. Her statement is as follows: “On Tuesday we learned that artists, community organizers and our neighbors were upset that the conference is happening at our museum and had banded together to express their concerns about affordable housing and work spaces and protest the event. Of course we wanted to be responsive, and I want to let you know what we have done.”

Pasternak went on to say that the museum would be looking at its policies for renting its space to third parties and offered to hold a separate event at the museum on affordable housing and workspaces. The author of the open letter, Sarah Quinter, also received an email from Pasternak.

The conference that caused the controversy is called the 6th Annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, and includes more than 600 “top retail, condo, multifamily and office players in the Brooklyn market,” scheduled for November 17.

November 9, 2015

Thomas S. Marvel (1935–2015)

Thomas S. Marvel

The architect Thomas S. Marvel, best known for designing the American embassies in Costa Rica and Guatemala as well as his work throughout Puerto Rico, has died according to a report by William Grimes in the New York Times. Marvel arrived in Puerto Rico in 1959 to build affordable housing for the International Basic Economy Corporation, a company founded by Nelson A. Rockefeller to aid developing nations.

Born in 1935 in Newburgh, New York, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth in 1956 and then enrolled in the graduate school of design at Harvard. He left Harvard in 1958 to go to work for R. Buckminster Fuller, the uncle of his wife.

Marvel’s work utilized local materials and hedged towards featuring natural ventilation and light. Major projects of his included the United States Court House and Federal Building in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; a Carmelite convent in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, and several buildings for the University of Puerto Rico. The Society of Architects and Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico awarded Marvel the Henry Klumb Award, its highest honor, in 1990.