01 The MacArthur Foundation has announced this year’s recipients of its prestigious “genius grants,” which award creativity across disciplines.
(via the New York Times and the MacArthur Foundation)
Announced on Thursday, the 2016 fellows include 23 individuals who have demonstrated “originality, insight and potential” in the arts, sciences, and beyond. Notable visual artists on the list include performance artist and sculptor Joyce J. Scott (at 67 years old, this year’s oldest awardee), video artist Mary Reid Kelley, and sculptor Vincent Fecteau. Celebrated art historian and curator Kellie Jones, who has organized groundbreaking shows on overlooked and underrepresented black artists, has also received a grant. Other notables on the list include poet Claudia Rankine, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, and cultural historian Josh Kun. Recipients are awarded grants of $625,000 over a five-year period, with the fellows selected at a time when their work is especially poised to effect change. “We want to give people new wind against their sails,” said Cecilia A. Conrad, a managing director of the foundation.
02 White-hot just two years ago, the market for emerging art has cooled significantly, with prices for some artists down nearly 90 percent.
Phillips’s “New Now” sale brought in $2.8 million on Tuesday, with a sell-through rate of 74 percent. Prices for some of the artists in the sale—Hugh Scott-Douglas and Christian Rosa among them—had reached the triple digits in 2014, driven upwards by a speculative market that saw investors looking for juicy returns. At Phillips this week, the artists’ works fetched $30,000 and $22,500, respectively, and a Lucie Stahl painting (low estimate: $6,000) went for just $563. Still, market observers have drawn slightly different conclusions from the Phillips auction. Though the $2.8 million total is a decrease from the $4.4 million brought in by February’s “New Now” sale, the sell-through rate marks a 23 percent increase. And while speculative buyers looking to make a quick buck from emerging art are out of luck, proclamations that the market for the category has emptied entirely are likely overdramatic—as are reports implying that lower returns in a very specific, once-speculative market category bodes doom and gloom for the market writ large.
03 A lawyer who represented artist-activist Ai Weiwei, among others, was sentenced by Chinese courts to 12 years in prison for fraud, a jail term that many have criticized as overly harsh.
(via The Guardian)
Beijing lawyer Xia Lin has represented several clients who clashed with the government over issues of free speech, including Ai. Although the lawyer was first detained in fall 2014, he was not tried until July of this year. Although few were surprised that Xia was found guilty—defendants in cases with political undertones are hardly ever found not guilty in China—many expressed shock at the severity of the sentence, handed down Thursday. Ding Xikui, Xia’s lawyer, said his client “thinks they are taking revenge on him” for representing a prominent Beijing activist who spoke out in support of pro-democracy protests. The charges against Xia state that he defrauded four people of $720,000; Xia countered that these were loans well within the boundaries of the law. According to Ding, Xia plans to appeal. Critics are labelling the news as yet another move by the Chinese government to intimidate human rights activists. In August, Ai himself was at the receiving end of censorship, when his invitation to submit a work to an art biennale in China was rescinded due to government pressure.
04 The president and curator of the 2017 Venice Biennale revealed the title of the upcoming edition Thursday, adding that it will emphasize the importance of artists.
(via artnet News)
Christine Macel, the curator of the Biennale’s 57th edition, said in a statement that focusing on artists amid a world riddled with crises was an effort to assert that “art is the most precious part of the human being.” Though the exact shape the exhibition will take remains somewhat vague, it is clear artists will play a multifaceted role; the forthcoming edition of the Biennale will be “designed with the artists, by the artist, and for the artists.” Macel, who is curating the Central Pavilion in the Giardini and Corderie in the Arsenale, is charting a very different course from her predecessor, Okwui Enwezor. Enwezor’s 2015 Biennale, titled “All the World’s Futures,” was generally well-received, though some critiqued it as cold and political. Macel’s edition seeks to emphasize the human, creating a “common place” for interaction. To that end, for each week of the six-month duration of the Biennale, an artist will participate in an “Open Table,” where visitors can engage them in discussion over lunch.
05 Performance artist Ulay, former artistic and romantic partner to Marina Abramović, won a legal battle on Wednesday over the sales of their collaborative works.
(via The Guardian)
Ulay (whose real name is Frank Uwe Laysiepen) served Abramović with a lawsuit in November 2015 claiming that she had violated a 1999 contract ensuring he would be given proper credit and paid 20 percent net for sales of their joint works. Ulay alleged that Abramović had withheld accurate records of sales from him, and thus cheated him out of earnings for the past 16 years (he said that she paid him for the sales of just four works since 1999). While Abramović, who has a memoir due out this October, was confident she would win the case, this week a Dutch court ruled in Ulay’s favor, ordering for her to pay over €250,000 in royalties, plus over €23,000 in legal fees. “She is not just a former business partner. The whole oeuvre has made history,” Ulay told The Guardian last year. “It’s now in school books. But she has deliberately misinterpreted things, or left my name out.” The performance duo collaborated from 1976 to 1988, during which time they created daring, now-iconic performance works. The work that cemented the end of their partnership, The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk (1988), saw the couple stand at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, walk towards one another, and then bid farewell once they met at the center. At Abramović’s 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, she and Ulay caused a stir when he unexpectedly showed up for her performance of The Artist Is Present, spurring a tearful reunion.
06 The National Gallery of Australia returned three Indian artifacts worth over $2 million, two of which it originally purchased from a now-criminally-indicted art dealer.
(via The Guardian)
Over the course of the last few decades, the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has purchased more than $11 million in antiquities from art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who in 2011 was arrested on suspicion of having orchestrated a massive South Asian antiquities smuggling racket. Among the artifacts Subhash sold were two items returned Monday—a stone statue of the Goddess Pratyangira dating from the 12th century and a rock carving from the third century depicting worshippers of the Buddha—purchased in 2005 for $328,000 and $790,000, respectively. According to an independent review conducted earlier this year, of the 36 Asian artifacts the NGA obtained between 1968 and 2013, 22 had a questionable provenance and 11 were deemed “highly problematic” due to their suspicious origins. Recently, photographic evidence which contradicted the NGA’s provenance history of the Pratyangira statue and the Worshippers of Buddha carving suggested that the provenance documentation held by the museum was falsified. “This new evidence means the NGA cannot legally or ethically retain these works, and returning them to India is unquestionably the right thing to do,” said NGA director Gerard Vaughan.
07 Museums in Berlin are expanding programs to help integrate refugees, even as far-right parties made major gains in Germany’s regional elections.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Berlin museums are providing displaced groups free tours of their collections led by other Middle Eastern refugees, a program that has attracted some 4,000 participants to date. Since its inception in fall 2015, the initiative has received continued funding from Angela Merkel’s center-right government. The next phase, a series of intercultural studios, is meant to foster integration by creating a shared space for refugees and the German public. But recent regional elections saw Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), suffering major losses as voters across the political spectrum rebuffed her refugee policies. Instead, they cast their ballots for alternatives put forward by socialist and nationalist parties. The far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) received a considerable upswell of support, particularly in Berlin’s poor eastern districts, which was seen as a direct response to Merkel’s acceptance of thousands of refugees from the Middle East. Though a coalition of left-wing parties ended up in control of the country’s capital, AfD won enough support to be seated in the city-state’s legislative body for the first time.
08 A controversial bill that would protect some foreign artworks loaned to the U.S. from seizure by American courts is moving towards a full Senate vote.
(via the New York Times)
Leaving the Senate Judiciary Committee last week with bipartisan support, The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act would extend legal protections to art loans from foreign countries, granting them a degree of immunity from seizure by federal or state courts. The Association of Art Museum Directors and other supporters of the bill argue it will encourage museums outside of the U.S. to loan their art for exhibition without fear of getting caught up in costly international restitution battles. Critics of the proposed legislation have raised complaints that the bill stalls efforts to recover allegedly looted artworks once they arrive in the U.S. In response, the latest version designates a special exemption to those suing for property taken by Germany’s Nazi government between 1933 and 1945 as well as objects taken after 1900 as part of a foreign government’s actions against a targeted group. This second exemption has led opponents to point out that certain government seizures did not target any specific group, such as the taking of artworks and other personal property by the government in the wake of Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution. Calls for restitution in such cases may be stifled by the current wording of the bill. Observers believe it will pass and head to the House.
09 London’s new deputy mayor for culture and creative industries has revealed a plan for “artist zones” that would be protected against development and climbing property costs.
(via the London Evening Standard)
With the average property price in London at about £600,000 a year, deputy mayor for culture Justine Simons forecasts that artist spaces will decline by 30% over the next five years. To combat this potential loss, her team plans to work with city authorities, developers, and the creative community to designate areas in east and southeast London “where creative people can put down roots.” Their strategy is to aid individuals and organizations in buying vacant spaces in areas of the city that are, or will become, “creative enterprise zones.” “The property market moves so quickly that by the time people have put grants together and applied for sponsorship the property is off the market,” she said. “So it’s the kind of intervention that is about accessing finance to allow creative people to put down roots and buy infrastructure and create ownership.”
10 An upcoming Andy Warhol biopic brings together Hollywood heavy-hitters—including Jared Leto, who will play the artist—to tell the tale of the biggest name in pop art.
Starring as the idiosyncratic Warhol is Leto, whose performance as a transgender woman succumbing to AIDS in Dallas Buyer’s Club won him the Oscar for best supporting actor in 2014. The actor will also produce the film alongside Michael De Luca, the producer behind lauded flicks like The Social Network and Captain Phillips which, like the forthcoming Warhol film, depicted the stories of real people. The screenplay, by Terence Winter, will be based on an adaptation of Victor Bockris’s 1989 book Warhol: The Biography. Winter is known for having created the television series Boardwalk Empire and writing the screenplay for the highly acclaimed The Wolf of Wall Street. Leto and De Luca own the rights to the book, and allegedly the duo has wanted to team up on an Andy Warhol project for some time.
Cover image courtesy of Phillips / Phillips.com