Briefing

Pioneering Pop artist James Rosenquist passes away, aged 83; Sky Arts establishes post-Brexit art fund; Anita Dube named Kochi-Muziris curator

James Rosenquist, Energy Crisis, 1979, oil on canvas, 1.2 x 1.2 m. Courtesy: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg © James Rosenquist / VAGA, New York / ADAGP, Paris

James Rosenquist, Energy Crisis, 1979, oil on canvas, 1.2 x 1.2 m. Courtesy: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg © James Rosenquist/ DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017

Pioneering Pop artist James Rosenquist passed away on Saturday, aged 83. Rosenquist will be remembered for his large-scale murals, which were heavily influenced by his early work as a billboard painter in New York. Perhaps the best known of these works, the 86 feet-long F-111, was installed at Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in 1965, as a response to the Vietnam War. While Rosenquist’s bold, graphic stlye and his incorporation of popular imagery saw him positioned alongside the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, he was never sold on the definition. In his 2009 autobiography Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art, he wrote: ‘Pop Art. I’ve never cared for the term, but after half a century of being described as a Pop artist I’m resigned to it…Still, I don’t know what Pop Art means, to tell you the truth.’ Throughout his lengthy career, Rosenquist’s work was exhibited at several major institutions, including the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum. His final solo show was held last year in Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Paris.

Sky Arts has announced the launch of Art 50, a USD$1 million commissioning fund that will be help finance 50 new works exploring what it will mean to be British following the country’s exit from the European Union. The open-call initiative, which takes its name from the infamous Article 50, is realised in partnership with Barbican, Sage Gateshead, and the Baltic Contemporary Arts Center, and is supported by the Sky Arts Amplify fund.

Indian artist Anita Dube has been named as the curator of the fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which will open in December 2018, an appointment that continues the biennale’s artist-led philosophy. Dube, who has shown her work at galleries including Nature Morte (New Delhi/Berlin), Lakeeren Gallery (Mumbai), and Galerie Dominique Fiat (Paris), is also a board member at KHOJ, an New Delhi-based artists’ association that she co-founded in 1997. In a statement, Kochi-Muziris Biennale co-founder Bose Krishnamachari praised Dube’s ‘sensitivity towards materials’, adding: ‘Her oeuvre features both knowledgeable consideration and skilful melding of the sensibilities and styles of abstractions with real, contemporary concerns. This will doubtless be reflected in her curatorial vision.’ To read Emilia Terracciano's review of the third edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, 'forming in the pupil of an eye', curated by Sudarshan Shetty, click here.

Germany will be forced to defend itself in a US court over art that was supposedly looted by the Nazis, following a recent ruling that denied the country’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to recover the Guelph Treasure, a 40-strong collection of relics and artworks that was sold by the House of Guelph to the state of Prussia in 1935. As Laura Gilbert reports for The Art Newspaper, the case is one of the first affected by the recently enacted Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (Hear) Act, which makes it easier for the heirs of victims of the Nazi regime to file restitution claims in the US. The decision is significant, says the plaintiffs’ lawyer Nicholas O’Donnell, because the court ruled that Germany’s seizure of art from its own citizens before 1939, when government forces crossed borders and invaded other countries, is a violation of international law. The years between 1933, when the Nazis came to power, and 1939 is “a period with a large category of [such] crimes,” O’Donnell says, and he anticipates the decision “will be used for other claims”. 

Mikhail Novikov, the deputy director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg who presides over major construction projects, has been placed under house arrest on charges of suspected fraud. Russian media outlets are reporting that Novikov's arrest is connected to a much large case involving over RBL 100m in embezzled funds that has already seen former deputy culture minister Grigory Pirumov imprisoned. Speaking to the official government newspaper Rossyskaya Gazeta earlier this week, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the institution, confirmed Novikov’s arrest, adding: ‘Everything that is happening is connected, first of all, to the question of Hermitage construction […] Where such big construction projects are taking place there is a lot of money, many various problems, and many dishonest contractors.’

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Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

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