Afrofuturism Exhibition in Berlin Under Fire for Not Showing Black Artists

In further news: V&A acquires Extinction Rebellion artefacts; Baltimore Museum of Art launches Matisse research centre

Members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, 2017, New York. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Theo Wargo

Members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, 2017, New York. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Theo Wargo

A Berlin art gallery has been criticized for mounting an exhibition inspired by Afrofuturism, while at the same time failing to show any black artists. Organizers of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien’s ‘Space is the Place’ show, named after the Sun Ra Arkestra’s seminal 1973 record – and due to open to the public on 2 August – have said that the show’s theme refers to Elon Musk’s space exploration exploits. The exhibition statement says that the show ‘also considers the afrofuturistic science fiction concepts of the 1970s’. Activist group Soup du Jour – an anonymous cluster of art workers – have written an open letter in protest of the show’s ‘old curatorial habits’, accusing the curator of ‘white muskulinity’. They pointed out that of the 22 artists selected for the exhibition, 18 are white men, three are white woman, and the sole person of colour is a Singaporean artist. ‘We can only congratulate you heartily on managing to successfully man your mission to outer space with a list of artists that deftly marginalises all artists other than white men,’ Soup du Jour wrote. Künstlerhaus Bethanien curator Christoph Tannert said that ‘curatorial freedom is as valuable as artistic freedom’ and that the gallery showed ‘at least 50% female artists, many of them people of colour’, each year.

70 firefighters were called to a blaze at the Frankfurt Museum für Moderne Kunst on 30 July, and worked throughout the day to put out flames concentrated in the museum’s roof area. No injuries or damage to artworks were reported. Designed by Hans Hollein in 1991, the museum has been undergoing renovations in recent months, and only a few staffers remained on site. Most of the museum collection had already been placed in storage – museum director Susanne Pfeffer said that they had been ‘fortunate in our misfortune’. Although Pfeffer said that they ‘had pretty much no art on display’, a photograph of firefighters carrying several On Kawara monochromatic date paintings from the museum’s collection to safety later attracted attention on Instagram – its veracity could not be confirmed, with some suggesting that it might have been photoshopped.

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has acquired several artefacts associated with the climate activist movement Extinction Rebellion. A flag marked with the group’s symbol, printing blocks used to produce protest placards and an original pamphlet are heading to the museum’s permanent collections – the acquisition is part of the museum’s ‘rapid response’ project which aims to exhibit newsworthy subjects. V&A curator Corinna Gardner said that Extinction Rebellion’s actions had ‘a visual character and identity that is singular […] My interest is how through a really considered set of design choices, Extinction Rebellion have brought a joyous but also focused sense of purpose to their actions.’

The Baltimore Museum of Art, home to one of the most important collections of works by Henri Matisse (with more than 1200 pieces), will now launch a research centre devoted to the artist. The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies (named after a late patron of the museum), situated on the BMA’s first floor, will open by 2021. Director Christopher Bedford described it as ‘something like a think tank focused on Matisse’, enabling the museum to become an ‘epicentre of scholarship’ on the artist.

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