Miami Fairs See Smaller Crowds but Strong Sales—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

Artsy Editors
Dec 2, 2016 11:20PM

Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.

01  The 15th edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach opened on Wednesday.


This year sees 269 galleries from 29 countries showing across the fair’s five sectors. And while political turmoil across the globe, the U.S. election, and Zika convened to dampen dealer expectations for the fair this year, results suggest that those with diversified programs and—most importantly—work of real resonance and quality are faring just fine. “Art Basel has truly transformed our community,” said Art Basel in Miami Beach host committee chairman and auto magnate Norman Braman, inaugurating this year’s fair. Over its 15 editions, Art Basel in Miami Beach has expanded from 160 galleries (half of which still participate) to nearly 300. It has seen the formation of over 20 additional satellite fairs, each of which now sets up shop during the first week of December. Plus, the Miami art scene has expanded from just six galleries in 2002 to over 130 galleries in 2016. And it has seen a remarkable commitment to culture from its residents. What could have been a purely celebratory occasion for Art Basel in Miami Beach did, however, reflect the state of our times. This year, 2016, has been cast by many as especially bruising, and this was not lost on the art world—far from it. Though not all, or even a majority, of the artwork at Art Basel in Miami Beach this year is directly political, shifting political and economic realities the world over have weighed heavily on many of the dealers.

02  Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a 7,000-year-old ancient city along the Nile River.

(via BBC News and The Guardian)

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced last Wednesday that it had discovered an ancient Egyptian civilization in the southern province of Sohag. They believe the site dates back to 5316 B.C. Located a quarter mile from the Temple of Seti I in Abydos, the city may have been inhabited by authorities and tomb builders. So far, archaeologists have uncovered a burial site and building remains as well as tools and fragments of pottery. The large size of the 15 graves that were found suggests they may have belonged to individuals of nobility. Professor Chris Eyre, an Egyptologist based at the University of Liverpool, told the BBC that this may have been “the capital at the very beginning of Egyptian history.” Located in the same province as the ancient city of Luxor, a prominent tourist attraction, this newly unearthed city comes at an opportune time, as Egypt aims to boost a tourism industry still reeling from the decline in visitors caused by the country’s 2011 revolution.

03  The U.K.’s culture minister confirmed on Thursday that art history exams will continue to be offered to British high school students, allaying fears that the subject would be dropped.

(via Arts Professional)

Pearson, an exam board, announced it would step in to offer the exam in 2017, one year before AQA—another exam board, previously the only one to offer art history—was slated to eliminate the test from its offerings. AQA announced its decision in October, when it sent a letter to teachers informing them of the cessation of the art history A-level (roughly equivalent to an American AP exam). The exam board primarily cited a lack of demand, highlighting the fact that only 839 students took the test last summer. However, many linked the decision to former conservative education minister Michael Gove, who introduced policies tough on so-called “soft” subjects. While the continued existence of the art history A-level has been met with praise from artists and museum professionals including Anish Kapoor and Nicholas Serota, it remains unclear if anything will be done to remedy the vast inequality in the administration of the exam, which is overwhelmingly offered to England’s most elite and privileged students.

04  An exhibition in Berlin featuring works from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art—which, if realized, would mark the collection’s first appearance outside Iran’s borders—has been postponed indefinitely.

(via The Guardian)

Roughly 60 works from TMoCA—including paintings by PollockRothko, and van Gogh—were expected to arrive in Germany next week, in time for the opening at Gemälde Galerie on December 4th. However, Iranian officials have not yet signed the documents that would allow the art to leave the country, according to a spokeswoman for the group that negotiated the loan. Although the exhibition will not open as scheduled, she noted that “the current signals we’re getting indicate we’ll get [the artworks] soon.” Ticket sales for the exhibition, which was also set travel to Rome’s Maxxi Museum of Modern Art in February, have been suspended until further notice. The arrangement between Germany and Iran concerning the TMoCA works had been finalized in May, following years of negotiation between diplomats and cultural leaders. It was heralded as a triumph for German cultural diplomacy, bolstering ties between the nations following a recent controversial nuclear deal made with Iran.

05  The Rubell Family Collection has announced plans for a move to a new, larger space in 2018.

(via the Rubell Family Collection)

Following 23 years in its current space in Miami’s Wynwood District, the Rubell Family Collection (RFC) is gearing up to move its private museum to a new Selldorf Architects-designed space in the city’s nearby Allapattah District. The new location, sitting on a two-and-a-half-acre campus, will offer a roomy 100,000-square-feet of space (the current location, a former DEA warehouse, has 40,000). According to Juan Valadez, director of the collection, the move was spurred by an ambition to show more of the collection at once—including four concurrent exhibitions. But beyond more space, the new museum is also an effort to expand the collection’s education, research, and residency programs, offering, in addition to 40 exhibition spaces, a research library, event space, and a sculpture garden, among other new amenities. According to Mera Rubell, the move also speaks to the the Rubell family’s love of discovery. “As a family, we enjoy the process of discovery, whether it’s new artists or emerging neighborhoods,” she said. While the manufacturing neighborhood of Wynwood has grown into a major cultural hub, Allapattah is seen as a burgeoning cultural locale. The RFC museum is slated to open December 2018, in time for the next run of Art Basel in Miami Beach.

06  Zaha Hadid Architects issued an open letter on Tuesday to affirm its commitment to diversity and democratic design, and to disassociate itself from the recent controversial remarks of its principal, Patrik Schumacher.

(via the New York Times)

At the World Architecture Festival in Berlin on November 18th, Schumacher presented an eight-point manifesto intended to resolve London’s affordable housing crisis, which would involve slashing social housing, privatizing public space, and deregulating prescriptive urban planning. “We do not have a real market in real-estate provision, that’s why we have a housing crisis,” Schumacher said. “Housing for everyone can only be provided by freely self-regulating and self-motivating market process.” His controversial words provoked backlash from architects worldwide, the mayor of London, and now his own firm. The letter from Zaha Hadid Architects begins, “Patrik Schumacher’s ‘urban policy manifesto’ does not reflect Zaha Hadid Architects’ past—and will not be our future,” and goes on to emphasize the diverse, democratic, and inclusive approach to design that the late Zaha Hadid (who died suddenly in March 2016) had championed. Her legacy includes 56 public projects in 45 cities; a diverse team (43 percent of ZHA architects are of minorities; 40 percent are women); a multidisciplinary approach that values research; and international collaboration with clients, experts, and communities.

07  Artists gathered outside Ivanka Trump’s Manhattan apartment to protest her father’s election.

(via the New York Times)

More than 150 artists, curators, and gallery workers gathered on Monday night outside the Puck Building, where Ivanka Trump owns a home, in a demonstration aimed at calling on Ms. Trump to temper her father’s political agenda. Among those in attendance were prominent artists Marilyn MinterCecily BrownDan ColenNate LowmanRyan McNamara, and Jonathan Horowitz. They carried signs protesting President-elect Trump’s controversial cabinet appointments and racist, xenophobic policies. The event was organized by an activist group of art-world insiders, the Halt Action Group, which includes Horowitz and independent curator Alison Gingeras, who launched the dear_ivanka Instagram account last week. The profile posts publicity shots of Ms. Trump along with captions expressing fears and concerns about his administration. One example published to the account earlier this week reads, “Dear Ivanka, are you going to help anyone that doesn’t look like you?” Another reads, “Dear Ivanka, why does the president elect remind me of my racist grandpa?” The hope, Horowitz told the New York Times, is that the demonstration is the first action in “a much bigger movement.”

08  Two separate World War II restitution cases concluded this week, with France and Germany returning two artworks to the heirs of their Jewish owners.

(via the New York Times and The Art Newspaper)

On Monday, France officially returned a 16th-century portrait to the descendants of the German-Jewish couple forced to sell the piece while fleeing Germany in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II. The painting, attributed to painter Joos van Cleve or his son, passed through the hands of several art dealers and was eventually sold to the Reich Chancellery for a planned museum in Hitler’s hometown of Lins. Allied troops recovered the work in 1945 and, in 1949, returned it to the French government, with whom it remained until now. This news comes as France seeks to increase the pace of WWII art restitution, following criticism that the process has taken too long. Later this week, authorities in Berlin returned a Reinhold Begas sculpture to the heirs of the Mosse family. Rudolf Mosse ran one of the largest independent newspapers in Germany; after his death in 1920, his daughter and son-in-law inherited his estate and publishing house. The couple were forced to flee the country in 1933 as Nazis stepped up their criticism of the “Jewish press,” leaving behind a massive art collection—all of which was seized and sold by the Nazis at auction the next year. The Begas sculpture is one of several recently returned works from the Mosse collection, though the work will stay on view at Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie for the time being.

09  Plans for the Guggenheim Helsinki have been all but abandoned after Finnish officials rejected the latest proposal for its funding.

(via the New York Times)

On Wednesday night, Helsinki’s city council rejected the most recent proposal for the $138 million museum, which would have required $89 million in city funds. After five hours of deliberations, the 85-person council voted against the plan, 53 to 32. “The main objections to the project presented by Council members included the project’s excessive cost for the Finnish taxpayer; inadequate private funding; and the proposed site, which was considered too valuable for the project,” read a statement from the council. The rejected plan, which included €66 million in private funds, had just enough support to be approved by city board officials in November; it was drafted after Finnish state officials blocked a previous plan with less private funding in September. Since 2011, when the Guggenheim Helsinki was first proposed, the project has been marred by criticism over directing taxpayer money to its construction. Supporters of the museum hoped it would boost the city’s tourism and usher in revitalization, as was the case in Bilbao in the early 2000s, when the Guggenheim licensed its name for the Frank Gehry-designed museum in the Spanish city. After the vote, Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, told the New York Times, “I think it’s unlikely that there would be any further activity.” In a statement, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation expressed disappointment with the outcome, but affirmed that it will “continue to pursue cultural dialogue around the world through our existing network of museums and our international collaborations, curatorial residencies, commissioning programs, shared collections, and much more.”

10  The British government will establish a unit of specialists to bolster heritage conservation in war zones, drawing comparisons to the famed World War II-era Monuments Men.

(via The Art Newspaper)

Recruitment could begin as early as next year, following an October announcement in Parliament that the British Ministry of Defense will create the specialist unit to preserve cultural heritage. It will be the first since World War II. The team will likely include 15 to 20 military reservists who can provide cultural expertise while serving on the frontlines in order to supplement the military know-how of professional soldiers. The news comes on the heels of the U.K.’s decision earlier this year to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The treaty calls for the creation of such military units to safeguard heritage in cooperation with civilian authorities. While most militaries, including that of the United States, consult civilian experts, the addition of uniformed specialists allows for cultural heritage preservation immediately following—or even during—armed conflict.

Artsy Editors

Cover images: Art Basel in Miami Beach, 2016. Photo by Alain Almiñana for Artsy; Rendering of the winning Guggenheim Helsinki design. © Moreau Kusunoki / ArteFactoryLab. Courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.