NEA Gets Surprise Budget Increase after Calls for Elimination—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 Despite President Trump’s plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, a bipartisan budget bill will boost the agency’s funding by roughly $2 million.
(via the L.A. Times)
The NEA’s funding bump to a budget of $149.85 million is included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, the agreement between House Republicans and Democrats that will fund the federal government through the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. Though the spending bill doesn’t include several of Trump’s key proposals, such as money for a border wall with Mexico, the president is expected to sign it before midnight Friday, following its passage through the Senate. While another funding battle looms after the budget expires in September, arts groups are optimistic given that this victory comes after fears the agency would be completely axed. But the bump might not carry through to future years; the President tweeted Tuesday the government needed a shutdown if the budget isn’t cut.
02 The sixth edition of Frieze New York kicked off this week, with more than 200 galleries from 30 countries showing inside its signature white tent on Randall’s Island.
Thursday’s VIP preview—a particularly important sales day for Frieze—was busy, with galleries reporting strong early demand. Though Frieze is a staple of the art world calendar, this year the fair comes amid a jam-packed schedule for art world denizens. Gallery Weekend Berlin wrapped up days ago, and the Venice Biennale opens next week, although fears that this would dampen sales at Frieze proved, at first blush, unwarranted. Changes to this year’s edition include the expansion of the now 31-gallery-strong Spotlight, a section dedicated to solo art-historical presentations of works by 20th-century artists. Frieze Projects, a selection of commissions curated by Cecilia Alemani, was also an early highlight—particularly a Dora Budor work that saw characters once played by Leonardo DiCaprio roaming the fair. It wasn’t all blue skies, however. Heavy rains in New York City forced the fair to close early on Friday; one Instagram video showed Frieze traffic tire-deep in water.
03 The Turner Prize shortlist was announced Wednesday, and includes two artists over age 50 for the first time.
(via the New York Times)
In March, Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson announced that the prize would be lifting its restriction on artists aged 50 and older, for the first time since 1991. This year’s nominees include 62-year-old Lubaina Himid and 52-year-old Hurvin Anderson, alongside younger artists Andrea Büttner and Rosalind Nashashibi (both in their forties). Both the Tanzania-born Himid and British-Jamaican Anderson engage directly with issues of race in their work. The Turner Prize, which comes with an award of £25,000, is meant to honor emerging artists who had standout shows during the previous year. “Now that its reputation is so firmly established,” Farquharson told the New York Times, “we want to acknowledge the fact that artists can experience a breakthrough in their work at any age.” The jury will announce a winner on December 5th.
04 Controversial Russian protest artist Pyotr Pavlensky has won political asylum in France, according to his lawyer.
Following allegations of sexual assault against Pavlensky and his partner, Oksana Shalygina, the pair fled Russia for France last year. The artist, who has spent time in prison for brazenly challenging Russian authorities through his provocative work, denies the charges. Both Pavlensky and Shalygina say they were detained at a Moscow airport on December 14, 2016, and questioned by authorities before being told that there were “more or less two possibilities: either go to a prison camp for 10 years... or leave Russia,” Pavlensky said. The pair opted for the latter, claiming political asylum in France, which was granted according to the artist’s lawyer. Both Pavlensky and French authorities declined to comment.
05 Turkey attempted to halt the Christie’s auction of a $14.4 million artifact last week, claiming it was looted.
The cover lot of Christie’s “Exceptional Sale” in New York on April 28, 2017, was a figure known as the “Guennol Stargazer,” a marble idol dating from the third millennium B.C. An anonymous buyer won the artifact for $14.4 million—well above the $3 million the sculpture was speculated to fetch. But one day before the auction, the Turkish government filed in U.S. court to have the sale halted, claiming the statute is their property. A skeptical federal judge rejected the country’s request and the sale proceeded. But in responding to the suit, Christie’s offered to hold the work for 60 days following the auction to allow Turkey to provide evidence supporting their claim that the piece was looted.
06 With campaigning for for the U.K’s general election underway, sculptor Cornelia Parker will act as the country’s official “election artist.”
(via the BBC)
Parker will follow the election, called by Prime Minister Theresa May last month, and create a piece capturing the mood of the contest and voters after they cast their ballots on June 8th. Nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997, Parker is the first woman to be the official “election artist” since the post was established in 2001. A conceptual artist working primarily with sculpture, Parker worked with Tilda Swinton for The Maybe, in which the actress lay seemingly asleep in a glass cabinet at London’s Serpentine Gallery and later at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Parker called the election “an event that I’m excited to engage with” and said she “look[s] forward to sharing [her] finished work.”
07 On Sunday, Dubai announced its own original font, which is meant to trumpet free expression, a right that is often limited in the UAE.
(via the New York Times)
The crown prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Microsoft’s division in the Gulf, which designed the font, made near-simultaneous announcements on Twitter over the weekend. “Expression knows no boundaries or limits,” one of the promotional videos said. But NGOs were quick to point out that artists and journalists in the United Arab Emirates (the seven-member federation of which Dubai is a part) are often limited in what they can produce or self-censor their work. One recent example came after the UAE blocked the entirety of the Arabic language edition of the Huffington Post, while past art biennials in the federation have seen work removed due to content.
08 A court in Germany has ruled in favor of artist Ida Ekblad in a dispute over one of her works, in which she appropriated an image of the daughter of Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert.
(via Galerie Max Hetzler)
A past exhibition at Kunsthaus Hamburg featured a work by Ekblad that included the image of a girl—who turned out to be Reichert’s daughter—taken from a Birkenstock billboard. The company’s CEO filed in March to have the work taken down, and a Hamburg district court issued a preliminary injunction. But in mid-April, the court reversed itself, stating that Ekblad’s right to artistic freedom outweighed any personal rights of Reichert’s daughter. The court also noted that the daughter had willingly appeared in a widely distributed publicity campaign, in both photographs and video, a fact that would have prevented the granting of a preliminary injunction had the court been aware of it. Reichert can appeal the decision.
09 Irish artist Richard Mosse has won the 2017 Prix Pictet for his “Heat Maps” series, chilling photographs that depict the refugee crisis.
(via The Guardian)
The prize, started by asset management company the Pictet Group, comes with a 100,000 Swiss franc ($100,000) award, given to a photographer whose work speaks to a specific theme—this year, space. On Thursday, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the honorary president of the prize, announced that Mosse’s “Heat Maps” (2016–17) had won. To create the images, Mosse employed a tool that is technically deemed a weapon by international law: a military-grade thermal camera. The resulting photographs are moving panoramas that capture the harrowing journeys of refugees, as well as the sprawling, dilapidated camps where they have been living, across Europe, the Middle, East and North Africa. An exhibition of Mosse’s photographs, along with the works of 11 other Prix Pictet finalists, is on view at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum May 6–28.
10 A Shanghai entertainment park will feature imitations of Random International’s Rain Room and Yayoi Kusama’s Dots Obsession—two wildly popular, social media-friendly installations.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Those behind the Chinese complex, called Family Happy Dream Park, aren’t concerned about copyright issues. “The materials are different, we focus on immersive experience instead of an exhibition,” brand manager Emy Zou told The Art Newspaper. The park’s version of the Rain Room, called the Dream Rain Zone, apparently has its own registered trademark in China, according to marketing and operations director Rong Wei. Since Random International’s Rain Room debuted in China at a 2015 exhibition at Yuz Museum, numerous imitations have sprung up across the country.
Cover image: Steven Gagnon, $100 US Flag, 2004. Image courtesy of Vertu Fine Art.