Saudi Arabia’s $400 Million Cultural Center to Open this Summer

The new King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. Courtesy: Snøhetta.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran will become fully operational by this summer, according to the Art Newspaper. The complex, also known as Ithra, will be the country’s largest cultural center and will be dedicated to promoting the arts and heritage of Saudi Arabia.

The center, a colossal stainless-steel building located along the Persian Gulf, was funded by the government-owned oil conglomerate Aramco and designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, whose past projects include the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Snøhetta won a design competition for the center in 2007 and began construction the following year. With more than one million square feet of facilities, for which construction costs totaled around $400 million, the institution will include a cinema, library, auditorium, exhibition hall, museum, and archive. Consisting of eighteen floors dedicated to educational programming, its “Knowledge Tower” will host workshops on subjects across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Ithra’s museum will incorporate four galleries, including one focused on Islamic design and heritage and another on modern and contemporary art in the Middle East. The institution will also implement pedagogical programming for local and international audiences.

The center was officially inaugurated by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on December 1. As part of its Bridges initiative, a cultural exchange and global outreach program, the center collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum on “Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys,” an exhibition on urbanization in Mecca, which will remain on view in Brooklyn through April 8, 2018.

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January 23, 2018

Nick Stillman Named Executive Director of Prospect New Orleans

Nick Stillman. Photo: Jonathan Traviesa.

The board of trustees of Prospect New Orleans announced today that Nick Stillman, the current president and CEO of the Arts Council of New Orleans, will be the organization’s new executive director. “This is a unique opportunity to merge my background in contemporary art with my executive and financial experience at the Arts Council,” Stillman said. “I’m excited to begin working with Prospect’s staff, board, and artistic director to situate artist projects in public and private space, build trust and relationships locally, and approach all initiatives with a collaborative spirit.” He will take up the post on April 2.

Prior to joining the Arts Council, Stillman was a visiting critic of modern and contemporary art at the University of New Orleans and the managing editor of BOMB magazine in New York. Between 2006 and 2007, Stillman curated eight exhibitions at PS1 Institute of Contemporary Art in New York, including the debut museum solo shows by Kalup Linzy, Amy Granat, and Joe Bradley. He has also written extensively for several publications, including Artforum, Flash Art, and Modern Painters.

In addition to Stillman’s appointment, Prospect New Orleans also revealed that Susan G. Brennan will step down as president and chairperson of its board of trustees, after ten years of service. She will be succeeded by Christopher J. Alfieri, who has served on the board since the organization’s founding in 2007. Other changes in leadership include Allison Kendrick’s appointment to board treasurer.

January 23, 2018

Former Culture Minister of South Korea Sentenced to Jail

Cho Yoon-sun

 

Channel News Asia reports that Cho Yoon-sun, South Korea’s former culture minister, will spend two years in jail for creating a blacklist of 10,000 artists who were viewed as being disapproving of Park Geun-hye’s presidency (Park was forced out of her role last March).

Prior to Cho’s position as culture minister, she was Park’s policy advisor. The court said it was “reasonable” to conclude that she had worked with Park in preventing state support of “certain artists.” Cho, who was on bail, was arrested in the courtroom today, January 23.

The blacklist included a wide range of artists from various fields, such as filmmaker Park Chan-Wook and writer Han Kang, who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2016.

 

January 23, 2018

Special Program Curators Named for 2018 Expo Chicago

Expo Chicago 2017

Grace Halio of Artnews reports that curators Pablo León de la Barra, Anna Gritz, and Justine Ludwig will be curators for three special projects at the 2018 Expo Chicago art fair. Pablo León de la Barra, a curator at large for the Guggenheim Foundation, will oversee large-scale installations for the “In/Situ” program; “Expo Video” will be supervised by Anna Gritz, a curator at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art; and Dallas Contemporary chief curator and deputy director Justine Ludwig will be in charge of “Exposure,” a project for emerging artists.

Tony Karman, Expo Chicago’s president and director, said, “Our 2018 program curators bring a broad range of experience, international perspective, and influence to our seventh edition, and I am confident that their work will profoundly extend the legacy of excellence in our programming.”

 

 

January 23, 2018

Nan Goldin Receives Elizabeth A. Sackler’s Support in Condemning Purdue Pharma

Elizabeth A. Sackler

Nan Goldin, whose project for the January 2018 issue of Artforum focuses on her addiction to OxyContin—a dangerously addictive pain drug produced by Purdue Pharma, a company owned by the Sackler family, famous for its generous financial contributions to arts institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Dia Art Foundation, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—is receiving support from Elizabeth A. Sackler (whose name adorns the Brooklyn Museum’s Center for Feminist Art) in condemning her family’s role in the opioid crisis. “The opioid epidemic is a national crisis and Purdue Pharma’s role in it is morally abhorrent to me,” Sackler told Benjamin Sutton of Hyperallergic. “I admire Nan Goldin’s commitment to take action and her courage to tell her story. I stand in solidarity with artists and thinkers whose work and voices must be heard.”

Elizabeth Sackler’s uncles, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, were Purdue Pharma’s principal owners when the company started distributing OxyContin in 1995. In 2007, Purdue Pharma was forced to pay a $600 million federal fine because the company deceived the public about the drug’s addictiveness. Oxycontin continues to sell well, regardless: In 2016, the company made more than $31 billion from the drug.

“My father, Arthur M. Sackler, died in 1987, before OxyContin existed and his one-third option in Purdue Frederick was sold by his estate to his brothers a few months later,” Elizabeth Sackler went on to say. “None of his descendants have ever owned a share of Purdue stock nor benefitted in any way from it or the sale of OxyContin. I stand with all angry voices against abuse of power that harms or compromises any and all lives.” A letter to the editors of Artforum from Elizabeth A. Sackler will be published on artforum.com on February 1, and will be included in the February issue of Artforum.

January 23, 2018

Louvre Abu Dhabi Children’s Museum Omits Qatar from Map

A picture of the exhibition display map that left out Qatar.

At the Children’s Museum in the new Louvre Abu Dhabi, Qatar was left off a map in an exhibition display that traces out a Gulf exchange route for an ancient vase. A picture of the map was taken by an American Middle East scholar and distributed on social media, writes Aimee Dawson of the Art Newspaper, causing some uproar. The omission was seen as a slap in the face to the country, as Bahrain, Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia have set embargoes against Qatar, accusing it of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, an alleged terrorist organization. The museum released a statement on January 22 saying that the omission “was an oversight,” and that the old map was replaced.

But Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the sister of Qatar’s ruler and the chairwoman of Qatar Museums, posted a message to her Twitter account expressing her disappointment: “Throughout history museums were a source of reference. People would visit to acquire knowledge and learn about world cultures through the exploration of objects on display. Although the notion of museums is a new one to Abu Dhabi, surely the @MuseeLouvre is not okay with this?”

January 22, 2018

Heidi Rabben Appointed Curator of San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco announced today that Heidi Rabben, an independent curator and writer, has been named as the institution’s new curator. She will work with chief curator Renny Pritikin to organize exhibitions, manage artist commissions and special projects, and to foster institutional partnerships in the Bay Area and beyond.

In 2017, Rabben was the Banff International Curatorial Institute’s curator-in-residence at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, Canada. Previously, she served as director of programming for the San Francisco Art Book Fair, director and curator of events and exhibitions at KADIST, and as a curatorial fellow at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts.

“I am thrilled to welcome Heidi to the CJM,” executive director Lori Starr said. “She brings a great deal of experience, imagination, and knowledge of both the local Bay Area art scene and the national and international art worlds to the museum. Her passion for the Jewish experience will have a significant impact on the original exhibitions we develop that integrate Jewish inquiry with contemporary art, and her track record of creating collaborative programs also makes her the ideal choice for working with our national and international colleagues to bring special exhibitions to San Francisco that might otherwise never be seen here.”

January 22, 2018

NADA Launches Acquisition Fund for Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum of the Arts.

The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) announced today that it has established a new acquisition fund for the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The initiative will allow the museum’s curators to select works from the upcoming edition of the fair, taking place at Skylight Clarkson Square from March 8 to 11, for its permanent collection. NADA’s seventh iteration will feature one hundred exhibitors from eighteen countries, including Argentina, Australia, Finland, Japan, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Bronx Museum,” said NADA’s executive director Heather Hubbs.” “NADA was founded in New York, and we could not be more proud to have artwork from our exhibitors in such a venerable collection. This initiative reflects our continued commitment to providing our exhibitors with unique opportunities to connect directly with influential curators.”

January 22, 2018

Activists Reveal Emails Between British Museum and Russia

The British Museum.

Activists recently unfurled a thirty-six-foot tall banner in front of the British Museum to protest British Petroleum’s sponsorship of the museum, reports Hyperallergic. The banner visualized 2,727 oil spills caused in one year by Rosneft, a government oil company in Russia in which BP has almost a twenty-percent stake. The protest, held by the activist group BP Or Not BP?, marked the end of a BP-backed exhibition at the museum titled “Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia,” which BP Or Not BP? demonstrated against last December. Activist Helen Glynn told Hyperallergic that BP’s sponsorship of the museum “fits into a wider strategy of trying to rehabilitate the Russian government in the eyes of Western policymakers, in an effort to weaken the sanctions that prevent BP from getting its drills into the Russian Arctic.”

The activists called attention to recent revelations made public by Culture Unstained, an organization campaigning to end the fossil fuel industry’s funding of cultural institutions and the legitimacy conferred by such patronage. Rather than divulge unlawful activities, Culture Unstained’s documents offer transparency concerning the often secretive communication between cultural institutions, politicians, and energy corporations.

The group recently published emails between Russian and British officials, BP representatives, the State Hermitage Museum, and the British Museum. One chain of correspondence, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, revealed a private meeting arranged for British Museum director Hartwig Fischer, two BP employees, the chair of trustees, and Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK. Yakovenko would later praise BP at the aforementioned exhibition’s opening for “supporting the cultural and scientific ties between our two nations.” In 2016, the British Museum renewed its sponsorship agreement with BP, unlike the Tate, which severed its ties following increased public scrutiny.

January 22, 2018

Cultural Figures Protest Jeff Koons’s Memorial to Paris Terror Victims

Rendering of Jeff Koons's Bouquet of Tulips.

More than twenty French cultural figures have penned an open letter urging the city of Paris to scrap its plans to install a controversial Jeff Koons–designed memorial to commemorate victims of recent terror attacks. Published by the French newspaper Libération on Monday, January 22, the document calls the work by the American artist as “shocking,” and suggests that Koons has “ulterior motives.”

Titled Bouquet of Tulips, the statue would be one of Koons’s largest at 34-feet high and 27-feet wide. The piece, a hand holding a number of differently colored balloon-like flowers is a reference to the hand of the Statue of Liberty, which was gifted to the United States by France in 1886. While Koons intended the work to also be a gift, he only donated the idea for the memorial. To build the $4.3 million sculpture, the country had to find the funds elsewhere. The letter is critical of this, calling it “costly” for the state and the taxpayers. It also argues that the proposed location for the work, a plaza that is shared by the Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, is “opportunistic” and “cynical” since it is nowhere near, and has no connection to, the Stade de France, the Bataclan theater, and the various restaurants and cafés where the November 13, 2015 terror attacks took place.