Artists Participating in the 57th Venice Biennale Revealed—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 The list of 120 artists participating in the 57th Venice Biennale’s international exhibition has been released.
(via the Venice Biennale)
The names of the artists that will be featured in the exhibition “Viva Arte Viva” curated by Christine Macel were quietly posted to the event’s web page this week. This year’s show is aimed at highlighting “the role, the voice, and the responsibility” of the artist in a precarious global political moment, Macel has said. To that end, Macel, who is artistic director of this year’s Biennale and chief curator at the Centre Pompidou, has assembled a diverse range of artists, spanning influential figures like Senga Nengudi, Olafur Eliasson, Anri Sala, and John Waters as well as prominent young artists like Rachel Rose and Guan Xiao. The featured artists hail from 51 different countries, with individuals from Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan all making first-time contributions.
02 Art therapists are divided over Second Lady Karen Pence’s support for their profession.
(via the New York Times)
Mrs. Pence announced her intention to use her newfound prominence to shine “the spotlight on the mental health profession of art therapy” on her Whitehouse.gov web page. She was an elementary school teacher for 25 years, and is an artist specializing in watercolors, according to her web page. But art therapists, whose work uses art to help patients express themselves nonverbally, disagree over whether to embrace or reject Mrs. Pence’s support. Some point to administration policies that will adversely impact their patients. “You can’t shine a spotlight on art therapy without being accountable to the real danger our clients currently face,” one therapist told the Times. But the American Art Therapy Association, an industry group, said in a January newsletter that the association is “enthusiastic about Mrs. Pence’s commitment to our profession.”
03 Some within the Metropolitan Museum of Art are questioning if director Thomas Campbell has put the future of the institution in jeopardy.
(via the New York Times)
Campbell is facing a growing deficit and mounting pressure from his staff amid a series of buyouts and layoffs, and, most recently, the announcement that plans for a renovated modern and contemporary wing are to be postponed. Some workers at the Met, speaking anonymously to the New York Times, have charged Campbell with a failure to effectively lead the institution and bolster morale in a period of turmoil that has seen the turnover of three quarters of the museum’s curatorial staff. Among their grievances is the contention that the museum has overspent on its digital department and on the new Met Breuer building, in an effort to cultivate a younger audience and plant a stake in the modern and contemporary art world. Curators and conservators also recently submitted a letter to the museum’s leadership to protest compensation cuts. The museum’s chairman and a trustee have spoken out in support of Campbell, who has personally conceded that change is needed. “I myself need to evolve my thinking and my interactions,” he told the Times. “We’ve identified those issues and taken steps to move forward in a very collective manner.”
04 Art Basel’s parent company MCH group has taken a stake in ART DÜSSELDORF in a move to create a new dominant Rhineland fair.
Art Basel’s parent company, the MCH Group, announced on Thursday that it has acquired a 25.1% stake in art.fair International GmbH, the Cologne, Germany-based owners of ART DÜSSELDORF. The fair’s inaugural edition will take place in November at Düsseldorf’s skylit Areal Böhler. Ambitions for the new fair are high. “ART DÜSSELDORF will become the leading regional art fair in Germany, the Benelux region, and the Rhineland,” said MCH Group Managing Director of Design & Regional Art Fairs Marco Fazzone. The regions have among the highest concentration of art collectors globally. A representative for MCH Group later confirmed that this does indeed put the Düsseldorf fair in contention with established art fairs in the region like the 51-year-old Art Cologne and Art Brussels, which was founded in 1968. The representative added that the Düsseldof fair is, however, “interested in friendly, neighborly relations.”
05 In a significant discovery, archaeologists have excavated a new cave linked to the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.
The cave had previously been mapped, but a more detailed examination yielded evidence of objects that were used to carry and house the scrolls—ancient documents that have been mined for insights on the Hebrew bible and the origins of Christianity. Previously, the scrolls had been linked to 11 different caves in Qumran, but this latest discovery adds a 12th to that list. The latest finding didn’t result in the uncovering of an actual scroll, however archaeologists were still buoyant about the discovery. “We ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing,” said Oren Gutfeld of The Hebrew University, adding that “the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen.”
06 Sotheby’s has filed a lawsuit against dealer Mark Weiss and collector David Kowitz over an Old Master painting linked to an ongoing forgery scandal.
(via the New York Times)
The case, brought in the High Court of England, centers around a disputed Frans Hals painting. Sotheby’s says that forensic tests by the firm Orion Analytical, which the auction house recently aquired, have conclusively determined the work is a fake. Kowitz and Weiss sold the work, Portrait of a Man, through the auction house in a private sale in 2011. Since then, there has been a widening forgery scandal around many supposed Old Masters paintings that turned out to be fakes. The Hals is among them; Sotheby’s called it “undoubtedly a forgery” and refunded the buyer. To come to this conclusion, Orion took 21 paint samples across the painting and found pigments of modern origin, thus not available at the time that Hals was working. Weiss remains unconvinced, however, alleging that the auction house denied his own experts access to the work, and stating that he “intends to contest the claim vigorously.”
07 An American hedge fund manager has refused to sell a painting to London’s National Gallery, citing the pound’s slump.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The London museum offered £30 million for the rare portrait by Jacopo da Pontormo to J. Tomilson Hill, a New York-based hedge fund manager. The sum matches the price Hill paid two years ago and comes after then-Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey put a temporary export ban on the painting in December 2015 to allow a U.K. buyer time to match Hill’s purchase price. The National Gallery scrambled to raise the funds, getting grants from national arts organizations and the U.K. Treasury. Since that time, however, the value of the pound has dropped sharply against the dollar, making the same sum in sterling now worth $10 million less. Hill said the National Gallery should make up this $10 million loss. The Guardian reported his rejection of the offer could mean he will not obtain an export license, meaning the painting would stay in the U.K.
08 As the recipient of this year’s Genesis prize, British artist Anish Kapoor vowed to donate his $1 million award to aid refugees.
In a statement, Kapoor urged the Jewish community to “condemn the exclusionist policies and politics of the government that claims to represent us.” He continued: “I am an artist, not a politician, and I feel I must speak out against indifference for the suffering of others.” The Genesis prize, described by Time magazine as the “Jewish Nobel,” is awarded annually to an individual who is preeminent in their field and has demonstrated a commitment to Jewish values; last year’s winner was Grammy-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman. Kapoor has spoken out about the refugee crisis before. In 2015, he joined forces with Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (whose recent work has also explored the plight of the displaced) to participate in an eight-mile “walk of compassion” through London in solidarity with refugees worldwide. Another British artist, Tracey Emin, announced this week that she will help sponsor a scholarship for a refugee student.
09 Attendance across several U.K. national museums dropped by roughly three million people, according to government data.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The information comes from a report published by the U.K. government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which funds 15 free museums across the country. The report found that visitors to these institutions numbered 47.6 million from April 2015 to March 2016, a decline from 50.7 million during the same period last year. The British Museum, which reported the highest total attendance, saw a slight bump in visitors from 6.7 million to 6.9 million. The National Gallery saw a decrease in attendance of students aged under 18—a drop the museum attributed to over 100 days of strikes impacting the museum. These figures come after the Louvre in France also saw a significant drop in attendance, though that decrease was chalked up to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Regardless, attendance is a limited metric for a museum’s performance, as counting the number of people walking through the door does not indicate how satisfied visitors are with their experience or what they learn.
10 More than 375,000 images of artworks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection are now available for free download with no copyright restrictions.
(via the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
This announcement comes as part of the museum’s Open Access initiative, through which it has partnered with organizations including Wikimedia, Creative Commons, and Pinterest to make its collection more accessible. Visitors can now sift through images at their leisure—the Met suggested several thematic groupings to start, from cats to works saved by the Monuments Men. Although hundreds of thousands of images from the New York institution have been available online since 2014, these were previously restricted to non-commercial and scholarly use. “The Met has given the world a profound gift in service of its mission: the largest encyclopedic art museum in North America has eliminated the barriers that would otherwise prohibit access to its content, and invited the world to use, remix, and share their public-domain collections widely and without restriction,” said the CEO of Creative Commons, Ryan Merkley, in a statement. To facilitate continued efforts in broadening access, the museum has also hired its first “Wikimedian-in-Residence,” Richard Knipel, who will work to integrate these public domain images into Wikimedia Commons.
Cover image: Rachel Rose, Everything and More, 2015. Image courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art.