The allegations stem from Ruf’s operation of a private art advisory service while serving as director, and the terms attached to a major donation to the institution last year. Ruf’s resignation comes less than two weeks after a pair of investigations were published by the Dutch daily NRC.
One of the reports revealed that Ruf earned €437,306 in 2015 from her private art advisory company, Currentmatters. The Stedelijk
’s annual report from the same year—which specifically provides a space for the museum to disclose its director’s activities outside of her employment there—includes no reference to Currentmatters, which is registered in Switzerland, nor to any income she derived from it. A statement posted
on the museum’s website cites “speculations in the media over the past weeks that may have an impact on [our] reputation” as reason for Ruf’s departure. Ruf is frequently cited as among the contemporary art world’s most influential players, and served as the director and chief curator of the Kunsthalle Zürich for nearly 12 years before taking up her post at the Stedelijk in 2014. “We brought extraordinary collections to Amsterdam and significantly deepened our relevance to society and our communities,” she wrote in the statement posted on Tuesday morning. “I value the interests of this outstanding institution, and place the interests of the Stedelijk first, above my own, individual concerns. In light of that, I feel that this is an appropriate moment for me to step down.”
02 Controversial Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky was arrested in Paris after setting fire to France’s central Bank.
On Wednesday, the artist and his partner Oksana Shalygina stood before a Paris judge, charged with “damaging property in a way that put others in danger,” according to the Times, after starting a fire at the Banque de France. Photographs of the performance began circulating on social media on Monday. Pavlensky is known for his spectacular and often gruesome political art; in one notorious performance, he nailed his scrotum to Russia’s Red Square to make a statement about political apathy. Pavlensky also set fire to the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in November of 2015. Both Pavlensky and his partner applied for and received political asylum in France earlier this year, following allegations of sexual assault made against them in Russia, which the couple argue were untrue and politically motivated.
03 Protesters gathered outside James Cohan in Chinatown in response to Omer Fast’s transformation of the gallery into a faux Chinese business.
Fast transformed the white cube gallery into “the waiting room of a Chinatown business,” according to its website. But critics charge that ’s
depiction—replete with broken ATMs, a damaged awning, and hole-ridden walls—amounts to “poverty porn” that stereotypes the very Chinese businesses being forced out of the neighborhood by gentrification. Dozens of activists, including members of the local artist collective Chinatown Art Brigade, demonstrated inside and outside of the gallery earlier this week to protest what they called its “racist narratives of uncleanliness, otherness and blight that have historically been projected onto Chinatown.” In response, the gallery stated that “people are free to draw their own conclusions about art, but they should also be given the opportunity to do so—without censorship, barriers or intimidation.” In his own statement, Fast defended his piece but said he was “truly sorry that some persons find the installation insensitive or offensive.”
04 A jury began hearing arguments on Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by 5 Pointz graffiti artists against the real estate developer who destroyed their work.
For decades, the 5 Pointz complex served as a graffiti mecca, attracting dozens of street artists and thousands of visitors to Long Island City, Queens. The artists who coated the building complex in their colorful and dazzling work acted with the permission of the owner, Jerry Wolkoff, since 1993. But in 2014, Wolkoff redeveloped the site, demolishing the buildings and, in the process, destroying the graffiti. The artists sued Walkoff for monetary damages
under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), a rarely tested federal law that, among other things, entitles artists to certain rights over their work if it is of “recognized stature,” even if that work is public and on someone else’s property. Oral arguments in the case began Tuesday, with a lawyer for the artists—who have tried to make the site a landmark, or even buy it—asserting they were not given 90 days’ notice prior to the demolition, as required under the law. The jury will hear from art experts who will testify that the 5 Pointz graffiti works meet the definition of recognizable art. Lawyers for Wolkoff will argue that his ownership gives him the right to demolish the building as he pleases.
05 German citizens and cultural figures have signed an open letter, protesting the appointment of a member of Germany’s far-right party as chairman of the country’s Committee on Cultural and Media Affairs.
Siegbert Droese, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), was appointed to head the German Bundestag’s cultural committee after the AfD secured 12.6 percent of the vote in last month’s elections. The open letter, published on September 26th in response to the appointment, warns that the AfD cannot be allowed to “[inject] its nationalist poison” into German cultural policy, arguing that the radical right-wing group is “unashamedly undermining the principles of our co-existence in this country.” Among the letter’s 25,000–plus signatories are directors, writers, producers, journalists, actors, musicians, and politicians, all prominent figures in Germany’s art and culture sector. In response, Droese said, “Our young party has specifically made the preservation and promotion of tradition, art, and culture a central task. The development of our culture as the sum of national and European values can provide cultural self-definition as well as give stability, purpose, and meaning to people of other cultures.”
06 The copyrights to works by deceased Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have been returned to his family after years of campaigning.
Namatjira, who was described by Reuters
as “Australia’s most famous
,” sold part of his works’ copyrights to his friend John Brackenreg in 1957, and upon Namatjira’s death two years later, the artist’s will transferred the remainder of them to his widow. But in 1983, the trustee of the Northern Territory, the Australian state that administered his will, sold those remaining copyrights to Brackenreg’s publication company without consulting family members, some of whom fell into poverty since losing the rights to Namatjira’s work. Aided by an arts organization, the family campaigned unsuccessfully for years to get the rights to reproductions of Namatjira’s watercolors and paintings, one of which was given to Queen Elizabeth II in 1947. And last weekend, those efforts finally were successful, thanks to Australian businessman Dick Smith, who knows the Brackenreg family and intervened on behalf of Namatjira’s descendants. “It’s a just cause,” Smith told Reuters.
07 Christie’s will auction a Fernand Léger painting estimated at $65 million without a guarantee.
After being held in the same family collection for a little over six decades, ’s Contraste de formes
(1913) will hit the New York auction block as the star lot of the Impressionist and Modern
sale at Christie’s on November 13th. The auction marks the first time the painting has ever been at auction, and Christie’s has high expectations, estimating the work at $65 million—roughly $25 million above Léger’s previous auction record, set in 2008 for the painting Étude pour La Femme en Bleu
(1912–13). Notably, the work is being put up without a guarantee, according to Art Market Monitor
. The star lot of October’s Post-War and Contemporary auction at Christie’s, ’s Study of Red Pope (1971)
, went unsold without a guarantee.
08 A Spanish court ruled that the tarot card reader who claimed to be the daughter of Salvador Dalí must pay for July’s exhumation of the artist’s body.