Iran Sentences Gallerists to Prison, Lashes—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
01 An Iranian-American gallery owner and his wife were handed stiff sentences by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court.
(via the Wall Street Journal)
The court convicted Karan Vafadari and Afarin Nayssari, a wealthy couple known for their lavish parties in the Iranian capital Tehran, of espionage and other charges. Vafadari, who has consistently denied the allegations, was sentenced to 27 years in prison, 124 lashes, and a cash fine of $243,000, according to a letter he wrote from prison that was published online Tuesday by the Center for Human Rights in Iran. His wife, who holds a U.S. green card, received 16 years in prison. The court confiscated all of Vafadari’s assets, citing a rarely used provision of Iranian law that allows such seizures from dual citizens. The couple, who owned the Aun Gallery, were originally arrested in July 2016 for violating Islamic laws that forbid serving alcohol and prohibit men and women from mixing. But because the couple are adherents of Zoroastrianism, an ancient pre-Islamic religion, they were exempt from the Islamic rules. Tehran prosecutors subsequently added the espionage charges. Vafadari’s son, who lives in Atlanta, called the Iranian justice system “opaque” and said his father and stepmother would appeal. A U.S. official called for the couple’s release. Iranian officials said Washington was not engaging in negotiations over a potential prisoner swap.
02 A Turkish air strike has caused severe damage to a Syrian temple that dates back to the Iron Age.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The ancient temple of Ain Dara in northwest Syria has suffered major damages following an attack by Turkish air forces that deliberately targeted the structure. The temple was discovered in 1955 and excavated thereafter, reported The Art Newspaper, with the dig unearthing the base of the structure that had “survived in relatively good condition.” But last week’s bombing caused major destruction, particularly to the temple’s massive basalt sculptures, which remained intact for over 3,000 years. The Turkish military targeted Ain Dara as part of a campaign against Kurdish separatists, despite the structure having no discernible military significance, a potential violation of protections for cultural property during armed conflict under the Hague Convention. Despite the damage, it may be possible to partially reconstruct the site, thanks to well-recorded documentation, according to The Art Newspaper.
03 Queens Museum director Laura Raicovich, who charted the museum on an increasingly political course, has stepped down after three years.
(via the New York Times)
Raicovich, an outspoken liberal who partially shuttered the Queens Museum in protest of U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration, cited divergence between her vision for the institution and the direction favored by the board as the reason for stepping down. Raicovich has in the past year taken to social media to critique the president’s policies, especially those on immigration, highlighting fear within the museum’s nearby immigrant community, a key constituency of the institution. Board members reportedly balked at Raicovich’s recent plan to turn the museum into “sanctuary space” that would bring immigrants and social services together. “There are so many big things that art and culture have to contend with that are so wrong in the world,” Raicovich told the Times. “That’s where my focus and energy needs to be, and at the end of the day, I just felt that my vision and that of the board weren’t in enough alignment to get that done.” Board chairman Mark J. Coleman praised Raicovich as “fearless” and said a search for a replacement would begin immediately. Curators and staff from various art institutions subsequently penned an open letter in the Times expressing continued support for Raicovich and the political engagement she brought to the Queens Museum. “Art institutions must respond to pressing issues facing our communities—this is not simply a right but an obligation, especially for those supported by public funds,” the letter read.
04 Frieze New York is now open to dealers without a permanent space, accommodating evolving gallery models.
Most contemporary art fairs’ criteria require participants to mount a set number of shows per year, which requires a physical gallery location. But Frieze New York this year will allow case-by-case exceptions, two of whom, Nicole Klagsbrun and Tig Sigfrid, are already planning to exhibit in May’s fair on Randall’s Island, artnet News reported. The change suggests the fair, one of the art market’s biggest, is accommodating increasingly common gallery models that don’t involve maintaining a cost-intensive physical space in pricey locales. Artnet News noted that Frieze London has not dropped its physical location requirement, while Frieze Masters has never had one. Frieze New York also added a second VIP preview day, making the fair five days in total. Subsequently, Art Agency, Partners’s Charlotte Burns reported on Thursday that Frieze is eyeing the city of Los Angeles for its third annual fair, with a potential launch in January 2019; Frieze declined to confirm the plans in a statement.
05 Manchester Art Gallery has removed a Victorian-era painting of nude adolescent nymphs from display, resulting in mixed reactions.
(via the BBC)
The 1896 painting, Hylas and the Nymphs by JW Waterhouse, shows a young man leaning over a pond with several nude adolescent women gazing toward him. The museum decided to temporarily remove the painting from view due to the ongoing reckoning around sexual harassment, sparked by the #metoo movement. According to the BBC, the decision was made both by gallery staff and artist Met late last year, when it refused the demands of an online petition to take down a painting by
06 The Louvre is exhibiting 31 Nazi-looted artworks in the hope of finding their rightful owners.
(via the Telegraph)
The Paris museum decided to put a selection of the 296 Nazi-looted pieces stored at the institution—including pieces by
07 The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office asked the state’s Appeals Court to extend an injunction barring the Berkshire Museum from descassioning 40 artworks amid speculation of a resolution.
(via the Berkshire Eagle)
The ongoing legal battle over the deaccessioning of 40 works in the Berkshire Museum’s collection might be heading towards resolution, but some involved in the case urged that it too early to say for certain. In a motion filed on Monday, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office asked for an injunction barring the museum’s sales to be extended to February 5th. In a Monday statement, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General said they are “hopeful that a brief extension will allow us to fully analyze the information we have received in our investigation, in the hope of finding a way forward to secure the future of the Museum and ensure it is able to thrive in the years to come.” The museum also issued a similarly hopeful statement this past weekend, saying it “is eager to resolve these issues to secure [its] long term future.” The proposed sale, which would have included paintings by
08 A U.S. Treasury Department list of prominent Russians linked to the Kremlin includes several art world figures.
The Treasury drew up a list of oligarchs and politicians connected with Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of its obligations under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, passed by Congress last year. The list, which was released late Monday night, includes Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire who is embroiled in a long-running fraud suit against a former advisor and who consigned
09 A Manhattan district court has ruled that Fred Dorfman, the art dealer who sold several stolen works by Jasper Johns, is eligible to face criminal charges.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Dorfman, who runs a Chelsea gallery called Dorfman+, is alleged to have been involved in an illegal ploy with James Meyer, a former assistant to
10 Christo will unveil a floating “mastaba” in Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake this summer.
structure originating in the Middle East that was often built atop tombs. His version for London’s Hyde Park will float in the Serpentine lake, in an “incredible vegetation and open area,” the artist told the Times. The sculpture will debut alongside an exhibition of the artist’s work at the Serpentine Galleries. It will be built out of 7,506 oil barrels, and will be red, white, and blue, the colors of the United Kingdom’s flag, as well as purple, a color Christo called “very royal.” He is making a similar structure in Abu Dhabi that will be 50 times larger and potentially the largest art project in the world. The Hyde Park project will be funded through the sale of his artwork. Meanwhile, the Serpentine Galleriesannounced on Wednesday that it will be opening a
Cover Image: Courtesy of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
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