Carolee Schneemann Wins Venice Biennale Golden Lion—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 Pioneering feminist artist Carolee Schneemann has won the Venice Biennale Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.
During her roughly six-decade-long career, Schneemann has fundamentally shifted the dialogue around sexuality and gender through her practice, while also making important contributions to performance art. Schneemann is perhaps best known for her work of the 1960s and ’70s—including Interior Scroll (1975), a performance in which the artist stripped naked, pulled a scroll covered with feminist texts from her vagina, and read them to the crowd. In a statement, Christine Macel, the curator of the forthcoming edition of the Venice Biennale, said that Schneemann “situates women as both the creator and an active part of the creation itself. In opposition to traditional representation of women merely as nude object, she uses the naked body as a primal, archaic force which could unify energies.” The artist’s more recent work continues to denounce conventional oppressive male gender norms, something that Schneemann herself has noted remains relevant in the era of Donald Trump. Schneemann will receive her award at the Venice Biennale in a ceremony taking place on May 13th to coincide with the show’s opening.
02 Two Iranian art dealers accused of espionage will go to trial next week in Tehran.
The married couple, Karan Vafadari and Afarin Niasari, run Tehran’s Aun Gallery. They were arrested in the Tehran airport in July of last year, and have been incarcerated since then. They stand accused of espionage, collaborating with enemies of the state, and “attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Vafadari’s sister Kateh, who administers a blog with updates and information on their situation, wrote that earlier charges were dropped by the prosecutor but have been since reinstated. She wrote that the couple were accused of having “unethical and inappropriate art,” although one of the gallery’s artists, Bizhan Bassiri, had been approved by the Minister of Culture for a show in the Venice Biennale. Niasari had been en route to Italy to begin work on Bassiri’s project when she was arrested.
03 Art Cologne is in advanced negotiations to acquire abc art berlin contemporary, a move that would unite Germany’s two sometimes-rival art capitals.
(via Art Magazine)
In an statement on Wednesday, abc art berlin contemporary confirmed its pending takeover by Art Cologne parent company, Koelnmesse, which was initially reported by Germany’s Art Magazine. The resulting fair, should negotiations conclude as presumed, will be called Art Berlin and take place during abc’s normal run of September 14–17. Art Cologne director Daniel Hug and abc and Gallery Weekend Berlin director Maike Cruse will jointly helm Art Berlin at its onset. The event would symbolically bring together the two cities, which have been sometimes rivals over the past 25 years of Germany’s art world development. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cologne’s position in the wealthy Rhineland and proximity to the Benelux region made it a much more profitable marketplace. But Berlin’s low rents and abundant space drew artists in droves—and, in step, renowned galleries to represent them. Art Berlin is in some respects a result of that rivalry; Hug and Cruse hatched the idea while resolving a scheduling conflict between Art Cologne and Gallery Weekend Berlin, with the two events taking place in the same week this year (Art Cologne opens on April 25th and Gallery Weekend kicks off on the 27th). The acquisition also comes shortly after the MCH Group announced its own acquisition of ART DÜSSELDORF, a new fair launched by the founders of art.fair Cologne.
04 Writer Randy Kennedy is leaving the New York Times to join Hauser & Wirth.
Hauser & Wirth announced this week that Randy Kennedy, who has written for the New York Times since 1992, will join the gallery as Director of Special Projects. Kennedy will oversee “a number of new editorial, writing, and documentary initiatives,” a role that includes relaunching and serving as editor-in-chief for the gallery’s print publication Volume, which temporarily shuttered after publishing its Winter 2015 edition. The move by Hauser & Wirth is another indication that blue-chip galleries are devoting greater focus toward editorial and published content; in 2014, Gagosian brought on journalist Derek Blasberg to develop its print properties, the same year that David Zwirner rolled out its standalone publishing house. Hauser & Wirth Vice President Marc Payot welcomed Kennedy in a statement, praising his “curiosity, talent, depth of knowledge, and uncanny sensitivity toward the visions and intentions of artists.”
05 Artist Arturo Di Modica, who created Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull, has called for the Fearless Girl statue to be moved.
Di Modica isn’t happy about the recent addition of the widely buzzed-about Fearless Girl to downtown Manhattan park Bowling Green. In a press conference Wednesday, Di Modica’s lawyers argued that the bronze girl defiantly staring down Charging Bull (1989) isn’t so much art as an advertisement by the work’s corporate sponsors, allowing them to profit from Di Modica’s piece and violating his copyright. But they also charge that the new statue—which ostensibly highlights the gender and pay gap on Wall Street—alters the originally positive message of Charging Bull without Di Modica’s permission, violating the artist’s legal rights. Although a lawsuit has not yet been filed, even the potential claim raises novel legal questions about whether a statute known as the Visual Artist Rights Act (VARA) protects the intangible message of a work of public sculpture.
06 The FBI has warned that “hundreds more” fake post-war paintings created by a forgery mastermind could still be in circulation.
(via the Federal Bureau of Investigation)
The Federal Bureau of Investigations issued a warning on its website that “hundreds more” forged paintings by convicted art dealer and forger Eric Spoutz, who was sentenced in February, may still be circulating. “Spoutz was a mill,” said Special Agent Christopher McKeogh of the FBI’s Art Crime Team in the New York Field Office, who pursued the case for over three years. Spoutz forged paperwork for the artworks, including paintings and works on paper supposedly by American masters such as Joan Mitchell and Willem de Kooning, using an old typewriter. He billed himself as an art dealer, and did in fact hail from an artistic family. “Spoutz became an artist in his own right—a con artist peddling fakes,” the FBI statement said. “His specialty was forging the paperwork that he used as proof of authenticity to sell bogus works.”
07 Eleven House Republicans have added their signatures to a letter defending the National Endowment for the Arts, slated to be eliminated under President Trump’s proposed budget.
(via the New York Times)
In the face of President Donald Trump’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, 32 House representatives—including 11 Republicans—endorsed a bipartisan letter defending the agency. Signees advocated not only preserving the NEA, but increasing its modest budget from $148 million to $155 million. The letter was sent to Representatives Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), chair and top ranking member, respectively, of the House subcommittee that allocates funds to cultural endowments. Initiated by Congressional Arts Caucus chairs Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), the letter addresses the NEA’s vital efforts to “support arts and health in the military” through its Creative Forces arts therapy program and the $729 billion funneled into the economy by the arts and culture sector. This is not the first time that conservatives have spoken out against the proposed elimination of the NEA; senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) joined 22 Democrats in signing an earlier letter urging Trump to preserve the endowment.
08 The director of the Israel Museum has resigned less than two months into his tenure.
(via the New York Times)
Eran Neuman, who succeeded James Snyder as director in February, has stepped down from his role due to “differences of perception in his role and working conditions,” according to a museum statement issued last week. The New York Times reported that contractual disagreements might have played a role in the abrupt departure. Neuman, who until now had been working part-time as director, will return to his position as head of Tel Aviv University’s School of Architecture. Meanwhile, Deputy Director Ayelet Shiloh Tamir will serve as the acting director as the museum searches for a permanent replacement. The ambiguous explanation of Numan’s resignation has been interpreted by some close to museum leadership as indicating Neuman had misjudged the extent of his responsibilities. Others close to Neuman, however, contend that Snyder—as of January the museum’s international president and director emeritus—sought to maintain undue influence over future exhibitions. Museum officials have declined to comment on the departure beyond their initial statement, which thanked Neuman for his support during his tenure.
09 Knoedler & Company has settled another lawsuit related to the gallery’s Rothko forgery scandal.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Another of the 10 lawsuits filed against Knoedler & Company and Swiss art historian Oliver Wick for the sale of forged artworks was settled Tuesday for an undisclosed amount. Frank J. Fertitta III, plaintiff in the case, alleged Wick and the New York gallery had knowingly sold him a forged Mark Rothko painting in 2008 for $7.2 million. Wick, who received $150,000 from Fertitta and $300,000 from Knoedler for his role in authenticating the work, had previously stated via email that “all is perfectly fine,” adding that “for this I stand with my name as a Rothko scholar.” Wick’s lawyers, however, contend that he had never personally vouched for the work’s legitimacy. The Rothko in question is one of 40 forgeries (30 of which were sold) created by Glafira Rosales, who then passed them to Knoedler. Gallery director Ann Freedman denies all prior knowledge that the works were fake, and neither the gallery nor Wick faced criminal charges for the sales.
10 The director of Poland’s Museum of the Second World War was fired following the right-wing government’s takeover of the institution.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The dismissal of director Pawel Machcewicz from the Museum of the Second World War followed court approval on April 5th of the merger between that institution and the as yet unbuilt Westerplatte Museum. The later museum was proposed by Piotr Glinski, the culture minister of the governing, right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party. The merger cemented government control over the WWII museum, and on April 6th acting director Karol Nawrocki was appointed to head the merged museums. The Museum of the Second World War has been a target of the PiS party since it took power in 2015; nationalist officials viewed the museum’s content as overly universal, with too little emphasis on the nation’s wartime activities. Machcewicz told The Art Newspaper that while Nawrocki may introduce changes to the exhibitions currently on view, he plans to fight to protect the displays using copyright laws.
Cover image: Carolee Schneemann in Salzburg, 2015. Photo: Andy Archer. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong.