Game-Changing Tate Director Steps Down—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

01  Sir Nicholas Serota, esteemed director of the Tate galleries, has been appointed chairman of Arts Council England.

One of the most powerful and highly respected leaders in the art world, Serota—who has led the Tate for almost three decades—will take on his new role in February, replacing Sir Peter Bazalgette. He said that the appointment was an “enormous honour, given the 70-year history of the council, its success in recent years and the crucial role that it plays in promoting art and culture in this country.” Serota’s numerous achievements as Tate director include the opening of the Tate Modern in 2000 and its £260 million expansion earlier this year. On his appointment, culture secretary Karen Bradley said, “He brings unparallelled experience, creativity and wisdom and will continue to be an enthusiastic champion of the arts in his new role.” It has not yet been determined when Serota will leave the Tate, which he will continue to oversee into 2017. Meanwhile, the institution—which includes the Tate Modern, Tate BritainTate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives—will begin its search for a new director immediately.

02  Another piece of a large-scale painting by famed Surrealist René Magritte that had disappeared for decades has been discovered in England.

the New York Times)

The work was thought to be either lost or destroyed until 2013, when X-ray technology uncovered a section of La Pose Enchantée (1927) underneath another  painting at MoMA. A second piece was discovered under the artist’s Red Model (1935) at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. The most recent piece was uncovered during conservation work on Magritte’s La Condition Humaine (1935), soon to be loaned to the Pompidou from its home in the Norwich Castle Museum. This discovery leaves only the upper-right-hand quarter of the painting to be found. “Then this exciting art world jigsaw puzzle will be complete,” said museum curator Giorgia Bottinelli.

03  Art Basel released the exhibitor list for the 15th edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach this week and announced that the first partner for its Art Basel Cities initiative will be Buenos Aires.

Art Basel and The Art Newspaper)
Art Basel Cities, unveiled in March of this year, is set to premiere in the Argentinian capital in late 2017. Known for hosting some of the world’s leading art fairs, Art Basel plans to use this new initiative to expand its role in the global art community. Instead of creating art fairs for its partner cities, Art Basel Cities plans to collaborate with partners to develop cultural programs unique to each location. Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director, said Buenos Aires was a top choice for a launch city—especially considering its location “on a continent where we do no fair and have no intention of doing a fair,” he noted. Art Basel also released the exhibitor list for its 15th annual Miami fair earlier this week, which will take place in December and feature 269 galleries from around the world. More than 85 galleries returning this year also participated in the first iteration in 2002, although the fair will also feature 21 new exhibitors.

04  London’s National Gallery is facing a $30 million lawsuit over a Matisse painting allegedly stolen after World War II.

On Wednesday, three grandchildren descended from the subject of ’s Portrait of Greta Moll (1908) filed the suit against the London museum, where the painting currently resides. The complaint claims that the work was stolen from owner Greta Moll in the years following WWII, invalidating the ownership of anyone who possessed it since, and thus rightfully belongs to Moll’s heirs. Those heirs are asking for the work’s return or damages of $30 million, the piece’s estimated value. When taken in broad strokes, the lawsuit in New York’s southern district court looks similar to many WWII art restitution disputes that have recently peppered the headlines (see: a legal battle over two paintings in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum). However, the plaintiffs in this case readily note that the Matisse wasn’t taken from a Jewish dealer or owner under threat of Nazi persecution in Europe. While this twist in the story sets it apart, the legal hurdles plaintiffs must jump to bring an international case like this in U.S. court remain formidable.

05  Turkey’s Çanakkale Biennial has been cancelled amid a wider crackdown on cultural expression following July’s failed military coup.

More than 40 artists from around the world were due to participate in the biennial’s fifth edition, set to open on September 24th. Had it been realized, the event would have focused on a highly politicized topic: the experiences of migrants and refugees. The biennial’s cancellation may be a result of the reluctance of foreign artists and curators to travel to Turkey; other international arts events in the country (including the sixth Sinopale Biennial and art fair Art International) have already been postponed for security reasons, while others such as the upcoming art fair Contemporary Istanbul will see a reduction in scale. The arts community in Turkey has increasingly come under fire in the months following July’s failed coup, leading to the detainment of many artists, newspaper cartoonists, and cultural figures by the national government. Other cultural activities have been interrupted, including an archaeological dig at Ephesus sponsored by the Austrian Archaeological Institute. Turkish officials forced the conservation project to a halt at the end of August even though archaeologists had planned to continue their work for another two months, due to a political dispute between the two countries.

06  Martin Roth, the first foreign director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, will resign this fall in what some report is partially a response to Brexit.

The Guardian and the New York Times)

The official announcement was issued on Monday via the V&A website, although reports of Roth’s impending resignation had previously appeared in British and German media. These sources claimed his decision was motivated by Brexit; Roth, who has long identified as a European, was born in 1955 in post-WWII Germany and has spoken out against the “war rhetoric” of the Brexit debate. “Europe always gave hope for a peaceful future, based on sharing, solidarity and tolerance,” he said in an earlier interview. “Dropping out always means creating cultural barriers and that worries me.” As director, Roth (who previously presided over the Dresden State Art Collections) aimed to make the V&A more international in scope since he came on in 2011. He earned tremendous respect in the British art world for overseeing some of the museum’s most highly trafficked exhibitions, like last year’s wildly popular “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.” Further successes include several major expansion projects, including the V&A Museum of Design Dundee and V&A East, set to open in 2018 and 2021, respectively.

07  A Paris court has sentenced 35 porters and three auctioneers accused of stealing thousands of valuables from the French auction house Drouot.

The convicted porters received sentences of up to three years, with 18-month suspended sentences. In addition, they received fines of €60,000 each. The auctioneers were each slapped with fines of €25,000 and suspended sentences of up to 18 months. During the trial, prosecutors alleged that over the course of several years, possibly even decades, members of a tightly knit society of art handlers systematically stole thousands of valuables—including jewelry, furniture, and a painting by —from Drouot in a scheme reportedly called la yape (the pilfering). The sentences handed down earlier this week are lighter than what the public prosecutor in the case had asked for: prison sentences with a maximum of five years.

08  A 9th-century mosque in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, was destroyed by an airstrike late last month.

The mosque, a destination for religious pilgrims, was situated on the Arabian Peninsula’s highest peak. UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova denounced the airstrike in a statement issued on September 3rd: “I reiterate in the strongest terms my appeal to all the parties in this conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and respect cultural and religious sites, which represent the soul and identity of the Yemeni population and a vital resource for resilience and hope.” At least 10,000 civilians, as well as dozens of historical sites, have become victims of Yemen’s violent conflict over the last 18 months. The Old City of Sana’a has been on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger since 2015. Of the 106 mosques, 12 hammams, and 6,500 houses built before the 11th century in Sana’a, UNESCO reports that 47 of these historic structures were destroyed in January 2016.

09  A warrant to retrieve an Acoma shield that was pulled out of a controversial Paris auction in May has been approved by a U.S. judge.

The warrant was requested by the U.S. attorney’s office in New Mexico and approved by U.S. District Judge Martha Vasquez. The item in question is a painted leather shield (alleged to have been illegally taken in the 1970s) that was put up for sale at an Estimations Ventes aux Enchères (EVE) auction—which also included an embalmed Nazca foot and a Lakota war garment, amongst other human remains and sacred objects belonging to indigenous tribes. “The grant of this warrant powerfully demonstrates the commitment of the United States to protecting tribal cultural patrimony,” said Governor Kurt Riley of the Pueblo of Acoma. EVE’s controversial auctions of indigenous objects, fervently critiqued by Native American groups, date back to 2013; responding to the May dispute, EVE auctioneer Alain Leroy stated that “the public auction process allows the different tribes to acquire their past, and that is exactly what some tribes prefer to do, seeking efficiency and discretion.” This warrant follows ongoing endeavors to prevent the sale of indigenous objects overseas, including the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act initiated by New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich in July.

10  British artist Rebecca Moss remains adrift on a container ship off the coast of Japan after the shipping company hosting her sea-faring artist residency suddenly declared bankruptcy.

Moss is currently on board the Hanjin Geneva, a container ship, as a participant in Access Gallery’s “23 Days at Sea” artist residency. After reporting $900 million in debt, the Hanjin Shipping Company—the world’s seventh-largest line of shipping containers—filed for receivership last week. International ports have barred the company from docking its ships over concerns that Hanjin will not be able to pay port and service fees. The captain of the Hanjin Geneva hopes to be able to dock in Tokyo. Until then, those on board have been instructed to conserve food and water, according to Moss. Meanwhile, Moss, whose video work draws inspiration from the absurdity of systems’ interaction with nature, said that the ship’s situation has caused her to see the residency in a new light. “When I watch back all of the footage I have of the containers being loaded, for example, with the knowledge they are destined for nowhere in particular, it becomes comic, but also such a tragic waste of labour. Whereas before I was trying to tease out an absurdity, now it is hitting me in the face everywhere I look,” she said.

Artsy Editors
Cover image: Photo of Tate London by Ralph Kränzlein, via Flickr.