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Aretha Franklin Honoured at National Portrait Gallery with Milton Glaser Work

In further news: Cuban artists fight for creative freedom; in London, plans to relocate suffragette statue met with anger

Milton Glaser, Aretha Franklin, 1968. Courtesy: the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, © Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser, Aretha Franklin, 1968. Courtesy: the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. © Milton Glaser

Aretha Franklin, who died yesterday aged 76, will be honoured at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C, with the installation of Milton Glaser’s iconic portrait of ‘The Queen of Soul’. The colour lithograph poster by the renowned ‘I ♥ NY’ logo designer was created in 1968 for Eye Magazine. It will be viewable until 22 August in the museum’s In Memoriam space. While Glaser sold millions of reproductions, the NPG has one of the few originals retrieved directly from the pages of the magazine. Franklin passed away at her Detroit home from advanced pancreatic cancer. In her lifetime, among other achievements, she won 18 Grammy Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Glaser’s portrait of the songstress has ‘an electricity, a pulsating rhythm, that you can just imagine that her voice had,’ Asma Naeem, the NPG’s associate curator of prints, drawings and media arts, says. ‘Glaser’s design – from the patterning, colour, composition and shapes, all suggest the amazing verve and energy of Aretha Franklin.’

Cuban artists are fighting against a new government regulation, Decree 349, which seeks to exert greater control on artistic activities in the country. The legislation allows the government to shut down concerts, galleries, art and book sales if they feature prohibited subjects, including the ambiguously stated ‘contents that are damaging to ethical and cultural values.’ Established by president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez and starting 3 December, the new regulation places significant restrictions on creative freedom, and commercialization of work – opponents say it essentially ‘silences’ artists, with all independent cultural activity now requiring prior approval from the government. Activists have launched a petition to protest government regulation, published on Avaaz with signatories including Tania Bruguera and Coco Fusco. The letter says: ‘A culture can exist without a Ministry, but a Ministry of Culture of a nation cannot exist without the creativity of its citizens.’

In London, a proposal to relocate a statue of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst from outside the Palace of Westminster to a remote site in The Regent’s Park has been met with anger. The controversial plan to move the monument to Regent’s University, according to the architectural firm tasked with relovation, will offer ‘a more prominent location.’ The university is built on the site of Bedford College, long associated with the suffragette movement. However, members of the public have commented on the statue’s ‘banishment’ believing that it will in fact result in significantly fewer people seeing it, and that while many suffragettes and pioneers in women’s education were connected to Bedford College, Pankhurst herself was not. Campaigners have described it an ‘act of vandalism against women’s history.’ The plan to relocate the Pankhurst statue comes months after the installment of a statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett, by Gillian Wearing, outside Parliament – the first statue of a woman placed in Parliament Square.

More than 70 architects and preservationists have signed a petition against the USD$75 million expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego which, they argue, will erase an iconic facade and colonnade by Venturi Scott Brown. Critics want to prevent a ‘tremendous mistake’, and say that current plans will compromise the 1996 postmodern renovation, which is considered to be a cultural landmark. The defining elements will be removed as part of Selldorf Architects’s proposal which involves quadrupling current gallery space. An open letter has been sent to the museum board’s chairman Paul Jacobs, and director and CEO Kathryn Kanjo.

Chilean Culture Minister Mauricio Rojas has resigned over criticism of a human rights museum. The member of the ruling centre-right coalition had previously debated the validity of the Museum of History and Human Rights in Santiago which documents abuses during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In a book published in 2015, in which Rojas explained his political journey from left to right, he described the museum as ‘a manipulation of history […] a shameless and inaccurate use of a national tragedy that touched so many of us directly.’ The resurfacing of these comments sparked a call for Rojas’s resignation from Chilean actors, writers and musicians. President Sebastian Pinera rejected his comments and accepted his resignation. It is estimated that 3,000 people disappeared or lost their lives and 28,000 were tortured during Pinochet’s dictatorship.

In appointments news: the Baltimore Museum of Art hires three curators – Asma Naeem in the new role of chief curator, Andaleeb Badiee Banta as senior curator of prints, drawings, and photographs, and Virginia Anderson as curator of American art; Caroline Fowler has been named associate director of the research and academic programme at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts; Gagosian Gallery has hired veteran art dealer Andrew Fabricant following his departure from Richard Gray Gallery; in New York, the Wallace Foundation has named Bahia Ramos as its new Director of Arts; and Tomás Toledo has been promoted to chief curator at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo.

And finally, in awards news: Lebanese artist Walid Raad has won the EUR€10,000 biannual Aachen Art Prize; PEN America is honouring Ai Weiwei with its Artistic Expression Award; and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts has named Titus Kaphar as the recipient of the 19th Rappaport Prize, an annual award of USD$25,000 recognizing artists with ‘strong connections to New England and a proven record of achievement.’

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