New Orleans Museum of Art acquires works from Souls Grown Deep Foundation; Ai Weiwei joins calls for the release of Liu Xiaobo; Lala Rukh has died

Quinnie Pettway, (1943–2010), “Bricklayer” variation quilt, 1975, 83 x 74 in., © Estate of Quinnie Pettway, Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio

Quinnie Pettway, 'Bricklayer' variation quilt, 1975, 211 x 189 cm. Courtesy: © Estate of Quinnie Pettway; Photograph: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio

Quinnie Pettway, 'Bricklayer' variation quilt, 1975, 211 x 189 cm. Courtesy: © Estate of Quinnie Pettway; Photograph: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio

The New Orleans Museum of Art has acquired 10 works from the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation for its permanent collection. The foundation aims to deepen museum presence of African-American artists from the American South through its ’strategic gift/purchase program'. The artists’ work acquired by the museum include pieces by Thornton Dial, Ronald Lockett, Joe Minter, Mary Proctor and the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. NOMA director Susan Taylor said in a statement: ‘This acquisition builds upon the museum’s commitment to championing emerging and underrepresented voices in American art’, marking the second time NOMA has collaborated with the foundation.

The New York Foundation for the Arts has revealed its 2017 fellows. 95 artists drawn from the state of New York have been recognized in the annual grants programme, with each fellow receiving USD$7,000. You can see the full list here.

Pakistani artist Lala Rukh has died. The activist and abstractionist – a key member of the Women’s Action Forum – passed away in Lahore last Friday at the age of 69. Born in 1948, Rukh taught at Punjab University for several decades, establishing the National College of Arts’ MA Honors Visual Art Program in 2000. Rukh has newly-commissioned work currently on show at documenta Halle in Kassel. Over on the documenta 14 website, Natasha Ginwala pays tribute to Rukh, her life woven in art and activism, and her deep focus on the contours of graphic scores and the calligraphic line: ‘The quiet determination unleashed in Lala’s work is never the utopian sort; instead one becomes aware that she is drawing out an elaborate tableau on that fundamental question of freedom and captivity’. Shanay Jhaveri wrote on her ‘abstraction with a political charge’ for frieze here.

Gagosian Gallery now represents Chinese artist Jia Aili. ‘While the content of his epic figurative paintings is unmistakably of his own time and cultural context’, the gallery said in a statement, the ‘formal virtuosity and complex layering of narrative’ in the work of the Beijing-based artist ‘reveal a deep and astute working knowledge of the inventions and traditions of painting from the Renaissance to the present day.’ Jia’s most recent show at Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Malaga, closed last month.

The Dia Art Foundation has acquired eight works by artists Lee Ufan and Kishio Suga. The artists are leading members of the Japanese Mono-Ha ’School of Things' movement which came to prominence in the 1960s with explorations of the interplay between man-made and natural materials. The acquisition is part of director Jessica Morgan’s aim to increase the foundation’s collection of non-Western art (since its founding in 1974, Dia has focused on artists from the US and Europe), as well as coinciding with a broader increase in interest paid to Mono-Ha artists by prominent institutions.

New York’s Washburn Gallery is moving from its 57th Street home to 177 Tenth Avenue in Chelsea, close to Gagosian Gallery and David Zwirner. Washburn Gallery will open in the new location on 14 September, with a show devoted to the legacy of the Works Progress Administration (with the subtitle ‘Save the NEA’).

Dissent against Chris Dercon’s appointment as director of Berlin's Volksbühne theatre rolls on, with the circulation of a petition to reconsider the new role for the former Tate Modern director.  Dercon’s position has been an embattled one ever since his appointment was announced, with 172 theatre employees and actors, dramaturges and designers affiliated with the Volksbühne writing an open letter last June to the culture ministry making clear their ‘deep concern’ about the incoming director. Dercon also faced media criticism of the €4.25 million budget linked to his appointment, and had a funding proposal turned down by the city senate. Signatories of the new petition include curator Anselm Franke and Texte zur Kunst founder Isabelle Graw.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has joined in calls for Chinese authorities to release the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who has been diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer. A friend of Ai since the 1980s, Liu has been serving an 11-year jail term since 2009 for his participation in the Charter 08 pro-democracy manifesto. Chinese president Xi Jinping has come under increasing international pressure to allow the literary critic and human rights activist – currently being treated in a Shenyang hospital after being granted medical parole – to seek medical treatment overseas, after recently being cleared for travel by foreign doctors. 

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