Venice Biennale Artistic Director Announced—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

01  Ralph Rugoff, director of London’s Hayward Gallery, will serve as the artistic director of the 2019 Venice Biennale.

(via the Venice Biennale and The Art Newspaper)

The Venice Biennale board of directors announced Rugoff’s appointment Friday. “The Venice Biennale is the oldest and most prestigious exhibition of its kind internationally,” Rugoff told The Art Newspaper. “I am really looking forward to taking on this new challenge alongside next year’s momentous reopening of the Hayward Gallery and upcoming exhibition programme.” As artistic director, Rugoff will curate the main exhibition at the historic Giardini and Arsenale for the 58th edition of the prestigious Venice event, which opens May 11, 2019. Rugoff was appointed director of the Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre in 2006 and also served as the artistic director of the 13th Lyon Biennale in 2015. Rugoff’s Venice Biennale will follow this year’s edition—the highest trafficked ever—which was curated by the Centre Pompidou’s Christine Macel.

02  A scuffle broke out between police and protesters over the removal of 44 artworks from a museum in Spain’s Catalonia region.

(The Guardian)

Police and hundreds of protesters clashed outside the Museum of Lleida in Catalonia on Monday. The region has been seeking independence from Spain’s central government, which has at times resulted in violence. The confrontation between around 500 protesters and police outside the museum is the latest development in a long-running dispute between Catalonia and the neighboring Aragón region. Nuns from Aragón sold the pieces, including paintings and reliefs, to Catalonia in the 1980s, but Aragón authorities called the sale illegal and sought their return. After Spain asserted direct control over Catalonia amid the semi-autonomous region’s recent push for independence, a judge in November ordered the Spanish minister of culture to return the pieces to Aragón. The move was met with dismay from leaders of the Catalan independence movement, and furious demonstrators chanted “Hands up! This is a robbery!” as police and experts entered the museum to take possession of the pieces.

03  China ended an unofficial 11-month ban on South Korean art.

(via The Art Newspaper)

The embargo on the display of South Korean art in China began after the United States deployed an anti-missile system system to South Korea. The ban was not announced as official state policy, since such prohibitions in China often rely on “rumour and self-censorship,” noted The Art Newspaper. The embargo had come as a surprise to dealers; one only learned about it after being advised to leave Korean names off the artist list of an upcoming exhibition in China, for which the dealer was denied a permit because of the Korean artists he intended to show. Korean artists were also noticeably absent from booths at art fairs in China including Shanghai’s West Bund and Art021 fairs in November, though dispute that caused the ban came to an end in late October, following what The Art Newspaper described as “high level talks” between South Korea and China. But uncertainty lingers. “It’s difficult for people to know [what’s going on] because on a Tuesday, the Chinese government could have a problem with Korea, then on Wednesday decide everything is fine,” one specialist in the Chinese market told the paper.

04  Archaeologists discovered two tombs in the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor.

(via BBC News)

The tombs were found in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis—an area famous for its temples and burial spaces. So far, excavation has yielded the discovery of intricate wall murals, painted masks of wood, and a roughly 3,500-year-old mummy thought to date back to Egypt’s New Kingdom, as reported by the BBC last Saturday. The country’s antiquities ministry claimed that a German archeologist actually found the sites in the 1990s, but they remained sealed until recently. Researchers have speculated that the mummy in one tomb, likely an ancient Egyptian official, may be one of two individuals—a person named “Djehuty Mes” or a scribe named “Maati”—whose names appeared engraved at one of the tombs. The second tomb has yet to be fully excavated.

05  Artforum moved to dismiss the lawsuit that centers on sexual harassment allegations against former publisher Knight Landesman.

(via artnet News)

Former Artforum employee Amanda Schmitt filed the suit against the influential magazine and Landesman on October 25th, recounting years of sexual harassment while she was an assistant at the publication, and in the years after she left. Landesman resigned in October, on the same day Schmitt filed her complaint, which included both her graphic account of being sexually harassed and accusations from eight other women. The legal basis for the suit against Artforum is not sexual harassment, since the statute of limitations for such a claim has passed. Instead, Schmitt has accused the publication and Landesman of slander, retaliation, gross negligence, and defamation. A lawyer for Artforum denied the charges, and moved to have the case dismissed last Friday. Landesman could not be reached for comment by artnet News. An attorney for Schmitt called the publication’s motion out of line with its public commitment to reforming its workplace, telling artnet News, “instead of celebrating Schmitt’s courage, Artforum is raising meritless arguments to try to get her case thrown out.”

06  The Guggenheim announced the artists shortlisted for the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize.

(via the Guggenheim)

Bouchra Khalili, Simone Leigh, Teresa Margolles, Emeka Ogboh, Frances Stark, and Wu Tsang are the six artists shortlisted for the biennial award. Established in 1996, the Hugo Boss Prize is among contemporary art’s most prestigious accolades. The winning artist receives $100,000 and a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. This year’s list features a diverse range of artists from four different countries (half are from the United States), all “working at the vanguard of contemporary art practice, exploring urgent social issues, and providing new artistic vocabulary through which to examine personal and universal themes,” said Nancy Spector, chief curator and artistic director at the Guggenheim. The final winner will be announced in the fall of 2018. Artist Anicka Yi took home the prize in 2016, using her solo Guggenheim show to stage the celebrated exhibition “Life is Cheap,” which featured live ants and a olfactory element meant to meld the odor of those insects with that of Asian-American women.

07 Over 250 Documenta artists and curators signed a petition against “profit obsession” following the 2017 edition’s cost overruns.

(via Artforum and GoPetition)

The petition proposes a new supervisory structure for the international art exhibition, in which “elected public officials are joined by representatives of Contemporary Culture, Education, and International museum visitors.” It also condemns the lack of response from Documenta 14 in the face of attacks from Germany’s far-right party Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD, and affirms geographic freedom for the fair. A portion of the petition reads: “The current board, comprising of elected officials (from SPD, CDU, GRÜNE, LINKE, and Independent) have remained silent while the far-right nationalist party AfD has called Documenta 14 public artwork ‘entstellte Kunst,’ evoking the Nazi term ‘degenerate art,’ and sued the curatorial and management team, and the former Lord Mayor of Kassel who chaired the board for previous 14 years, in an act of intimidation.” The quinquennial exhibition was held this year in Athens in addition to its traditional site of Kassel, Germany, where it has been held since 1955. The extra site was found to be a major factor behind the show’s cost overruns, causing a roughly $6 million debt. Signatories include the artists Christian Boltanski, Johan Grimonprez, Hans Haacke, Sanja Iveković, Marta Minujin, and Stanley Whitney, and members of the curatorial team of Documenta 14, such as Pierre Bal-Blanc, Hendrik Folkerts, Dieter Roelstraete, and Monika Szewczyk.

08  On average, works by women artists fetch less at auction than those by men, a new study found.

(via The Art Newspaper)

A study out of the University of Luxembourg examined auction data from 1970 to 2013, analyzing a total of 1.5 million transactions. Researchers found that women’s artworks sold for an average of $25,262, while men’s sold for $48,212. They ruled out factors that could offer a “primary explanation” for this difference, including the work’s aesthetic qualities and women’s historically comparatively limited access to the art world, instead attributing the monetary gap to “societal bias,” The Art Newspaper reported. The researchers also studied attitudes towards women artists, finding that they were consistently ranked lower than their male peers. In one experiment, 2,000 individuals were shown computer-generated images that were assigned names of male and female artists. The works attributed to women were rated lower than those attributed to men.

09  A Manhattan art dealer is facing federal charges following allegations that he stole millions from clients through the fraudulent sale of works by major artists.

(via Bloomberg)

Ezra Chowaiki is accused of selling works by Wassily Kandinsky and other major artists to investors, promising a “quick resale and hefty profit,” wrote Bloomberg. Those resales never materialized, according to the complaint, with Chowaiki (of the recently bankrupt New York gallery Chowaiki & Co. Fine Art Ltd) allegedly keeping the investors’ money and the work, which he often didn’t own in the first place. In one instance, a Cayman Islands company allegedly paid $900,000 to purchase 50 percent share in a sculpture on the understanding that Chowaiki had another buyer lined up to pay $2.15 million for the piece. But after wiring Chowaiki the money, the company learned Chowaiki didn’t even own the work itself. The scheme allegedly began in 2015 and lasted until last month, the same time the gallery went bankrupt. The gallery’s majority owner said he alerted police when he was made aware of Chowaiki’s suspicious dealings.

10  An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Savannah College of Art and Design’s president has used the non-profit school to earn millions of dollars.

(via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The lengthy profile of Paula Wallace, the Georgia college’s founder and president, details her near-absolute control over the institution, history of hiring family members, and outsized pay packages. In 2014, she was the highest-paid college president, earning $9.6 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Her compensation between 2011 and 2015 was nearly $20 million, over three times as much as what Harvard’s president earned over the same period, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. She also had use of lavish homes in Savannah and the French region of Provence provided by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The school relies on tuition payments and other student fees as its main source of revenue, and accepted almost 94 percent of applicants in 2014, according to the paper, who graduate with student debt burdens roughly 25 percent higher than the national average. The paper also documented extensive use of non-disclosure agreements between the school and its employees.

Portrait of Ralph Rugoff by Marc Atkins. Courtesy of Hayward Gallery, London.