Massive Ai Weiwei Public Art Exhibition Coming to New York—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 Public Art Fund has announced that Ai Weiwei will create a massive exhibition of site-specific works across New York City addressing borders and migration.
(via Public Art Fund)
Beginning in October, the exhibition will see Ai erecting security fences across multiple boroughs in New York City. Titled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” and timed with Public Art Fund’s 40th anniversary, the project is inspired by the migration crisis and current tensions related to borders and immigration in the United States and around the world. Ai will install site-specific fences at locations including Cooper Union on Astor Place and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, as well as across bus shelters, rooftops, and alleyways. “New York City has long served as a gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants seeking better lives and has long benefited from their contributions and service in every neighborhood across the five boroughs,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This expansive public art project that explores themes of freedom and the power of self-expression is a perfect symbol and reminder for all of us, especially in the current political climate.” Ai, who immigrated to New York in 1983 and resided in the city until 1993, has, in recent years, repeatedly focused on global migration through his work.
02 Christie’s has canceled its June contemporary auctions in London.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The auction house cited a “particularly busy” art world calendar for the cancellation, with collector attention split between the Venice Bienniale and New York sales in May and then Documenta 14 and Art Basel one month later. But the decision—which leaves June Impressionist sales to continue as normal—also comes amid a shift towards Asia and online-only auctions initiated following the December appointment of Guillaume Cerutti as chief executive. Earlier this month, Christie’s announced the closure of their South Kensington, London, salesroom effective by the end of this year, along with plans to reduce their auction footprint in Amsterdam. Sotheby’s said that it will continue with this June’s contemporary sales, while a Phillips spokeswoman told The Art Newspaper that the auction house hasn’t made a decision.
03 Galleries Vilma Gold and Ibid have announced the closure of their London spaces.
(via Vilma Gold & ARTnews)
Late last week, the two galleries separately revealed plans to shutter their flagship storefronts. Rachel Williams, the co-founder of Vilma Gold who opened the performance and new-media focused gallery in 2000 with Steve Pippett, shared the news in a mass email. She cited a shift in the contemporary art world “towards an endlessly accelerating global cycle of fairs” as the impetus for closing the gallery’s physical space in Bethnal Green. While Williams will continue to work with the gallery’s artists (including Charles Atlas, Trisha Baga, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and the estates of KP Brehmer and Stephen Dwoskin) in “a new model of collaboration,” she did not elaborate on what shape that would take. Then, last Friday, Ibid’s founder Magnus Edensvard told ARTnews that he had closed his central London gallery. While Edensvard is on the hunt for a new space, he noted that the city center’s steep rents were not sustainable for a mid-tier gallery like Ibid. The fact that he had been making 95% of his sales at international art fairs and at his Los Angeles gallery, which he opened in 2014, rather than from his former London home base, also contributed to Edensvard’s decision.
04 The Beijing studio and residence of two Chinese artists was demolished by government authorities, prompting clashes between artists and police.
(via Art Asia Pacific)
On Wednesday, more than 100 public security officials clashed with some 100 artists in the art colony of Songzhuang, outside of Beijing, as they tried to block the demolition of the studio and residence of artists Shen Jingdong and Cao Zhiwen, according to Art Asia Pacific. The conflict left multiple people injured and led to two arrests. Government officials stated the impetus for demolition, which was completed by the afternoon, as “illegal construction.” The artists’ belongings were thrown into the street and they will not receive compensation; Art Asia Pacific reported Shen had acquired the land for just over $16,000 in 2009. In another incident a week earlier, artist Hua Yong, who also has a studio in China’s largest art colony, returned from a holiday to find his belongings had been rifled through.
05 Hermitage Museum deputy director Mikhail Novikov has been placed under house arrest on suspicion of fraud.
(via The Art Newspaper)
A Moscow court ruled Wednesday that Mikhail Novikov, deputy director of construction for The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, will be held under house arrest until May 23rd. Novikov has been accused of embezzling money from museum construction projects. Reports in the Russian media allege Novikov was swept up as part of a larger embezzlement scandal involving 100 million RUB (1.78 million USD) stolen from restoration projects overseen by the country’s Ministry of Culture. Novikov’s detention comes after a January investigation by the Federal Security Service into the Hermitage Museum’s restoration practices. The Art Newspaper reports that some have suggested this investigation was an instance of political retribution, prompted by Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky’s criticism of the transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral from the local government to the Russian Orthodox Church. In a statement, Piotrovsky said that the Museum is in “constant contact” with the Federal Security Service to prevent instances of fraud by contractors and underscored the presumption of Novikov’s innocence before declining to comment further.
06 Nicholas Serota is forming a commission to investigate the relationship between arts education and childhood development.
(via The Guardian)
After taking the helm of Arts Council England in February, Sir Nicholas Serota—who is also the outgoing director at the Tate—announced an 18-month inquiry into the impact of studying creative fields on childhood development on Tuesday. The commission, formed in partnership with Durham University, will convene this September and report in early 2019. Over the past decade, creative subjects in British public schools have occupied an increasingly tenuous position. The Royal Academy of Arts reports that since 2010, enrollment in arts classes has plummeted 13%. The figure for students enrolled in at least one arts-related subject also fell last year for the first time since 2012. Currently the English baccalaureate, Britain’s program for determining school curriculums, does not mandate that students take creative subjects. This joint investigation could substantiate calls for arts classes to be made a compulsory component of the baccalaureate. Earlier this month, a protest letter delivered to Theresa May and signed by more than 100 cultural figures—including conductor Simon Rattle and incoming Tate director Maria Balshaw—called attention to the withering arts resources in British schools.
07 The Art Newspaper released its 2016 survey and analysis of exhibition and museum attendance, including figures supporting the continued dominance in contemporary shows and Christo’s astounding popularity.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The paper broke down exhibitions by genre and location, looking at total attendance and attendance per day. Topping out the latter metric was Christo’s Floating Piers, which drew 75,000 visitors per day (1.2 million total) during the short few weeks it was installed on Italy’s Lake Iseo. More broadly, the paper found that exhibitions at 29 major U.S. museums were predominantly of contemporary art, with 44% of the 2,300 shows held by those institutions between 2007 and 2015 dedicated to artists born after 1970. Though this isn’t a new trend, it is still a marked departure from decades past. While today contemporary shows draw large crowds, in 1997, not a single contemporary exhibition was among the most visited in the U.S.
08 A French court has ruled that sellers, not buyers, are responsible for paying artist’s resale rights.
The ruling, which came on March 24th, is the latest in an eight-year legal battle with its origins in the 2009 sale of the estate of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. The auction netted €375 million for Christie’s, which mandated that buyers pay artists or their heirs a percentage of the revenue from the resale of their work. But French regulation on the matter states that resale rights should be levied on the seller. As a result, two associations of auctioneers and gallery owners sued Christie’s for unfair competition, arguing that shifting the levy to the buyer gave Christie’s an advantage in luring consignments. In last week’s ruling, a French court agreed, stating that “without exception” sellers are responsible for artist resale rights. The auction house plans to appeal the decision to the French supreme court, which heard the case previously in 2015.
09 Striking museum workers at Paris’s Centre Pompidou have caused the museum to remain closed for five straight days, as of Friday.
(via artnet News)
The strikes at the museum were prompted by a new labor law, which will designate new museum hires as civil servants rather than the more equitable status of contractual employees. For some, this change, slated to take place on April 1st, could entail pay cuts of as much as 20 percent. The striking employees, who took action after a General Assembly on Monday, forced the Centre Pompidou to reschedule a fundraising gala dinner, along with prompting the institution’s week-long closure. Organizers have been in negotiation with the Ministry of Culture during this time. Between 60 and 100 employees are engaged in the strike, according to museum reports, but the French Worker’s Force (Force Ouvrière) estimates the figure is between 300 and 400. This current strike follows protests of the law earlier this month, with workers also managing to close the museum on March 9th.
10 New York’s popular but criticized Fearless Girl statue will remain standing through February 2018.
(via Daily News)
The statue of a young girl facing down Arturo Di Modica’s charging bull sculpture will remain in its Financial District home through next February, the Daily News reported. Fearless Girl, commissioned by the investment management company State Street and sculpted by Kristen Visbal, was originally slated to stay for only one week. After vocal support—including that of Public Advocate Letitia James, who called for its permanent installation—New York’s Street Activity Permit Office extended the statue’s permit through April 2nd. That permit has now been further extended to 2018 through the Department of Transportation Art program. In its short lifespan, the installation has attracted a fair share of criticism. Di Modica lambasted the statue as an “advertising trick” while others say its feminist message is hypocritical given the gender gap of State Street’s board.
Cover image: Rendering of one piece in the multi-part Public Art Fund project Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio and Public Art Fund.