40 Artists Sue Zara over Alleged Plagiarism—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.
01 Prompted by a now-viral Instagram post by L.A.-based artist Tuesday Bassen, more than 40 artists and designers have accused international clothing brand Zara of plagiarism.
Bassen’s Instagram post compares her original designs for pins and patches with Zara’s alleged copies, as well as a transcript of the retailer’s legal response to a cease-and-desist letter sent by Bassen’s lawyer. Zara stated that “the lack of distinctiveness of your client’s purported designs make it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere in the world would associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen.” Brooklyn-based illustrator Adam Kurtz, a friend of Bassen’s whose work was also allegedly copied by the brand, launched a website to serve as a platform for other plagiarized artists. Since its launch, the number of allegedly copied designs of pins, patches, decals, and prints has almost quadrupled, and Kurtz hopes that they can be a “landmark example of really small-scale independent artists banding together to stand up to a major retailer.”
02 Cleveland will launch its first art triennial, to be co-directed by conceptual artist Michelle Grabner and international curator Jens Hoffman, in 2018.
(via the New York Times)
The new triennial, called FRONT International: Cleveland Exhibition for Contemporary Art, will run from July 7 to September 30, 2018 and feature more than 50 international artists. The idea for a triennial originated with Fred Bidwell, an art collector, retired advertising executive, and former interim director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Bidwell has secured the participation of several local and regional institutions, including the Cleveland Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, and the Akron Art Museum, and describes his project as a “grand experiment” with “the potential eventually to be an important slot on the international cultural calendar.” Despite the current overload of art fairs, biennials, and triennials around the globe, Grabner and Hoffman have both expressed the need to bring attention to the art world outside of America’s major cities.
03 In response to increasing criticism, the German culture minister has promised to reform the Limbach Commission, a panel that helps resolve Nazi-era art restitution disputes.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The panel was established in 2003 to help Germany meet its responsibilities under the non-binding Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, created in 1998 with 44 countries as signatories. Current criticisms against the commission include lacking transparency, the absence of a Jewish member, prolonged proceedings, and the low number of cases it has resolved. Earlier this year, culture minister Monika Grütters was met with accusations of anti-Semitism when she claimed that a Jewish person on the panel “would be the only voice who would be prejudiced.” She has since agreed to designate a Jewish member, and this appointment is anticipated in the upcoming reform, with proposals to be put forward this year. The German government has been under greater scrutiny over the past few years regarding its Nazi-looted art practices, and several controversies related to the panel, along with an overall lack of transparency, have “contributed to a weakening of the effectiveness of the Washington Principles,” according to German lawyer Henning Kahmann.
04 Following budget cuts resulting from Brazil’s economic crisis, the new culture minister has cancelled a number of public art projects made for the Rio Olympics.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Bar Paris, an installation by the Italian artist Giancarlo Neri, is the most recent project to be cancelled. Consisting of 1,415 illuminated chairs, it was planned for a public square in the Glória neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro and would have cost approximately $200,000 to produce and maintain. These budget cuts follow the Brazilian government’s announcement earlier this year to close the Ministry of Culture in an effort to save costs amidst the country’s economic decline. Though the ministry was reinstalled in response to public dissent, last week it announced the dismissal of 81 federal employees, including the directors of São Paulo’s Brazilian Cinematheque, Rio de Janeiro’s National Library, and the Brazilian Institute of Museums in Brasília. The cancellation of cultural projects is yet another blow to the Brazilian government, which has also been criticized for organizing events in areas that have been considerably affected by the Zika epidemic.
05 In fall 2017, billionaire financier J. Tomilson Hill will open a private museum in Chelsea to house a portion of his $800 million collection.
(via the New York Times)
The two-story gallery will be named after the Hill Art Foundation, established by Hill and his wife, Janine. Although most of what goes on display will come from the couple’s collection—which includes high-quality works by modern and contemporary artists like Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol alongside Renaissance bronzes—Hill said he may also utilize personal connections to borrow works to show as well. The museum will offer free admission and employ a full-time curator. Hill, vice chairman at private equity firm Blackstone Group, is also a trustee at the Met. Although his collection may live in Chelsea for several years, it seems likely that the works will eventually be donated to the museum—Hill noted, “the Met needs everything I’ve got.”
06 François Pinault, French billionaire and owner of Christie’s, will transform Paris’s 18th-century Bourse de Commerce into a private museum housing his vast contemporary art collection.
(via the New York Times)
The Paris City Council approved the plans for the project last month, with Pinault agreeing to a 50-year lease on the building and a backing of $55 million for the renovation and future operating costs. Pinault has enlisted Japanese architect Tadao Ando to design the interior of the museum. Pinault’s first attempt at establishing a museum in Paris 11 years ago was thwarted by Parisian bureaucracy, leading him to abandon the project entirely. Instead, he set his sights beyond France, opening two private museums in Venice, both of which were also designed by Ando. Pinault’s collection is among the most highly praised in the world and includes works by artists including Jeff Koons, Cy Twombly, and Agnes Martin. Despite this, some have questioned whether Paris needs another contemporary art museum. Just two years ago, another famed collector of contemporary art and heavy-hitter in luxury goods space, Bernard Arnault, launched a Frank Gehry-designed physical space for the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Why having more art on view is a negative thing, frankly puzzles us.
07 Despite increasing political unrest in Turkey, including arrests of artists and journalists, the fifth Çanakkale Biennial and Contemporary Istanbul will open this fall.
(via The Art Newspaper, Contemporary Istanbul)
Several Turkish fairs and biennials, namely Art International and the Sinopale Biennial, have announced plans to postpone their fall editions in light of recent political unrest that has rocked the country. However, the Çanakkale Biennial and Contemporary Istanbul have announced that they will forge ahead with their September and November programs, respectively. “We are determined to realize this biennial even under the current difficult conditions,” said Beral Madra, director of the Çanakkale Biennial. “Maybe some artists will be reluctant to come—which we fully understand—but their works will represent them.” The Biennial will revolve around the theme of migration, a relevant subject for Turkey, which shares a border with Syria.
08 An Albrecht Dürer engraving that disappeared from a Stuttgart museum some 70 years ago was rediscovered at a French flea market and returned to the museum.
(via artnet News)
The Dürer was spotted in Sarrebourg by a discerning collector; its vendor was not aware of the work’s origins or importance. Believed to have gone missing during wartime, the piece had been listed on the Lost Art Database of the German center Kulturgutverluste. Now, it will be returned to Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. “We are very grateful that, after more than 70 years, the work came to the hands of an art lover who did not keep his valuable find for themselves, but returned it to the public instead,” said the museum’s director Christiane Lange. The work is dated 1520 and comes from a series of 15 biblical engravings by Dürer depicting Mary and the baby Jesus. Neither the purchase price nor the market value of the piece have been released.
09 In an ongoing legal battle that will head to court this coming Monday, artist Peter Doig says he was threatened to authenticate a work he did not make.
A painting of a desert landscape is at the center of an authentication controversy between artist Peter Doig and Canadian former corrections officer Robert Fletcher. Fletcher claims that he purchased the work from a man named Peter Doige (spelled with an ‘e’) for $100 in 1975, while the artist was jailed at Northwestern Ontario’s Thunder Bay Correctional Center. Doig vehemently refutes the claim, and says that he has been threatened by Fletcher to authenticate the work. “I have never been pursued so aggressively to authenticate a work that is not mine,” said Doig. “I was even threatened that friends in Homeland Security would uncover my ‘criminal past’ in order to instigate a travel ban to the United States. I have no criminal past!” The case will head to a Chicago court on Monday, where Fletcher and Peter Bartlow, a Chicago-based art dealer who was handling the sale of the work in question, are seeking $5 million in damages. Doig has warned that the lawsuit, and its pending outcome, could set a “dangerous precedent” for artists: “The final authority for authentication of a work of art would no longer be the surviving artist himself, but a judge or jurors who are at best nominally familiar with the classification of works of art or artistic practice.”
10 A record 100 auction houses worldwide are now using Art Loss Register, the world’s largest database on stolen art, to comb through their sale catalogues for pilfered works.
(via Art Loss Register)
According to the company, this represents a 50% increase in the last three years—a trend that demonstrates growing concern by auction houses about the reputational and financial damages that accompany the sale of stolen works. The issue of looted works gained renewed public prominence in 2013, when it was uncovered that more than 1,200 artworks had been confiscated the year previous, from the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, whose father was a Nazi-era art dealer. While only 91 of those works are now believed to potentially stem from Nazi looting, the find has placed increased scrutiny on public and private efforts to identify and restitute stolen art. Art Loss Register’s growing client list may be a response to this recent focus on Nazi-looted artworks. In 2015 alone, the Art Loss Register located artworks by Andy Warhol and Anish Kapoor, as well as Roman antiquities, in sales catalogues at auction houses.
Cover image: Photo courtesy of ShopArtTheft