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Artists Show ‘Distinct Neural Traits’, Less Responsive to Monetary Rewards, New Brain Study Suggests

In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest Christian Dior exhibition in UK

Lu Yang, LuYang Delusional Mandala, 2015. Courtesy: the artist and Beijing Commune

Lu Yang, LuYang Delusional Mandala, 2015. Courtesy: the artist and Beijing Commune

Lu Yang, LuYang Delusional Mandala, 2015. Courtesy: the artist and Beijing Commune

Are artists’s brains distinct from the rest of the population? A new study claims that artists’s brains demonstrate less dopamine activity – the brain’s response to a rewarding stimulus – than non-artists when presented with free money. Artnet has looked into the report published in the Creativity Research Journal, produced by a team of researchers led by Dr Roberto Goya-Maldonado from Göttingen’s University Medical Center. ‘Collectively, our results indicate the existence of distinct neural traits in the dopaminergic reward system of artists, who are less inclined to react to the acceptance of monetary rewards,’ the researchers write. Of the 24 participants, 12 identified as working in the arts, with the other 12 not self-identifying as ‘creative’. The test involved each participant being shown a series of coloured squares, and when a green square appeared, they could select it and receive money. Researchers simultaneously analyzed the participants’s brain activity and found that the artists had reduced activation in the ventral striatum – part of the brain’s dopamine reward system – when selecting the green ‘money’ square, compared to non-artists. A complicating additional test revealed that artists showed a greater response in dopamine activity when actively told to reject the green squares. ‘Our results do not preclude the possibility of other factors such as social status or income playing an important role, as they were simply not investigated,’ the study acknowledges.

French President Emmanuel Macron has assigned civil servant Thierry Tuot the task of reporting on artists’s residencies supported by the state, with the aim of attracting and developing artistic talent. Tuot will be responsible for addressing strengths and weaknesses in existing programmes before September 10 and will propose a reevaluation of residencies and government strategy. France currently puts more than EUR€7m each year towards around 500 residencies and other arts programmes.

The British Council has become embroiled in a censorship controversy over an exhibition in the Bahamas after removing its logo from the show’s catalogue because it was ‘too political’. The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas accused the cultural diplomacy wing of the UK Foreign Office of censorship after the latter distanced itself from an exhibition in which it was a partner, The Guardian reports. The project was the final part of a British Council series titled ‘Difficult Conversations’ which looked at the UK’s implication in the Caribbean slave trade. The paper reports that British Council officials were said to be concerned about a particular catalogue essay by Bahamian academic Ian Bethell-Bennett which explored local concerns around the growth of Chinese influence on the Caribbean state. Gemma Hollington, the British Council’s head of exhibitions, said: ‘From our perspective, the process was not us unilaterally telling them what to do, but working to make sure the essays were published in full while not affecting our non-political status.’

The Royal Institute of British Architects has issued leading architect (and RIBA presidential candidate) Elsie Owusu with a ‘cease and desist’ letter to prevent her from making ‘damaging public statements’ about the institution. Owusu had previously criticized the salary of RIBA Chief executive Alan Vallance, claiming that it was six times an architect’s average salary. She also claimed that RIBA was institutionally racist and had used ‘Weinstein-like gagging clauses’ in an interview with The Times. The official document described Owusu’s claim regarding Vallance’s pay as ‘unsubstantiated’ and a ‘flagrant breach of confidentiality’.

In funding news: Philanthropist Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Fund, which was launched last year, has given out USD$10m in new grants ranging from USD$25,000 to USD$2m for its second funding round – recipients include Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas, Titus Kaphar and others working on projects that explore ‘ideas and stories about the injustice and inequity of mass incarceration’; and a new GBP£1m digital archive which contains 3,500 images, educational resources and articles relating to the legacy of disability arts in the UK has opened – you can access the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive over here.

In gallery news: Thierry Goldberg Gallery has opened a new space in New York’s Lower East Side, at 109 Norfolk Street; Black & White Gallery and Project Space in Brooklyn has closed after 16 years citing challenges regarding finances and ‘finding new collectors’ – founder Tatyana Okshteyn said ‘traditional methods don’t work anymore’; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects will open a second gallery in Los Angeles, located in a former tire factory downtown; and Tanya Bonakdar have announced that a show by American sculptor Charles Long will inaugurate the gallery’s new LA outpost – titled ‘husbands sons fathers brothers’, the exhibition will run from 14 July to 18 August.

The V&A in London have announced a major Christian Dior exhibition which will trace the history of his fashion house and explore the impact of the French fashion couturier. The museum is based on the landmark Dior exhibition that was held at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris last year. Titled ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’, it will be the biggest ever UK exhibition dedicated to the French designer who died in 1957. The V&A will include a new section which will be dedicated to Dior’s relationship to the UK. The exhibition will also feature garments such as a dress worn by Princess Margaret at her 21st birthday party alongside personal possessions of Dior including films, perfumes and magazines.

Finally, ICA Boston has opened a new satellite space in a working shipyard called Watershed. A former copper pipe and sheet metal factory has been transformed into new ICA exhibition spaces – the venue, whose name is inspired by its location along the Boston Harbour, was renovated by Anmahian Winton Architects. The new space is seasonal, only opening in the summer months with visitors able to take a 6-minute ferry ride to the gallery space. A show by Diana Thater will inaugurate the space – the ICA plans for future commissions that will respond to the Watershed’s industrial and waterside environment.

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