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Briefing

Documenta curatorial team respond to financial mismanagement report; Gwangju Biennale announces 2018 theme

Adam Szymczyk, 2017. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; Photograph: Olaf Kosinsky

Adam Szymczyk, 2017. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; Photograph: Olaf Kosinsky

The curatorial team of documenta 14 have responded to criticisms of financial mismanagement in an open letter, after the publication of a report detailing a serious budget deficit that threatened its continued existence. The current edition of documenta, led by curator Adam Szymczyk, had to be saved from bankruptcy, according Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeine (HNA), a regional newspaper published in Kassel. A report from the paper on 12 September outlines a meeting of the exhibition’s supervisory board in late August in which they heard that the projected deficit for the financial year amounted to EUR€7million. Documenta’s owners, the state of Hesse and city of Kassel, then loaned EUR€3.5million each to the exhibition's parent company, and significant creditors have also agreed to a deferral of what is owed. According to the newspaper, the decision to extend the exhibition across two locations, Kassel and Athens, strained the original EUR€37million budget, with overspending in shipping costs between the two sites, and electricity bills and production costs (for instance, marble artist plaques) in Athens making it the most expensive edition of the exhibition to date. But in an open letter to the press, the curatorial team condemned the report for ‘reiterating speculations and half-truths’. Though not directly refuting the deficit, the documenta curatorial team criticized the newspaper for ‘presenting their opinions as objective facts’ noting the budget had not changed substantially since 2012, despite the scope of the 2017 edition. You can read the letter in full here.

Stuart Shave’s Modern Art gallery will return to Vyner Street in the UK capital’s East End, taking over the former Wilkinson Gallery space to add to its current gallery on Helmet Row. The new location’s 557.5 square metres will enable the gallery to host multiple concurrent exhibitions. The inaugural show will be a Josh Kline show, ‘Civil War’, which builds on his project ‘Unemployment’, looking at the effects of automation and artificial intelligence on human labour in the years to come. The gallery started life on Vyner Street in 1998 before leaving the East End for a space on Eastcastle Street in 2008, provoking an exodus of other galleries that had set up shop in the neighbourhood.

The Gwangju Biennale has announced the theme of its 12th edition in 2018: ‘Imagined Borders’, referencing Benedict Anderson’s work on nationalism, and deploying a multiple-curator system. It’s Asia’s oldest art biennale, located in the city to the southwest of South Korea, founded in 1995 in memory of the 1980 Gwangju pro-democracy uprising. Next year’s edition will open on 7 September 2018.

The Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam has decided to change its name to remove reference to the 17th-century Dutch naval officer Witte Corneliszoon de With who managed violent expeditions for the Dutch East India Company. The decision taken by the supervisory board was triggered by an event over the summer at the art centre, ‘Cinema Olanda: Platform’ which engaged with the country’s ‘active forgetting’ of its colonial past. The name change, as yet unknown, will take effect sometime in 2018.

The ‘Ask a Curator’ Twitter event on Wednesday went badly for the British Museum, when the institution’s ‘Keeper of the Department of Asia’ Jane Portal (when asked a questions about exhibition labels) suggested that ‘Asian names can be confusing, so we have to be careful about using too many’. The museum has apologized ‘for any offence caused’.

The studio of Chinese artist Huang Rui, located near Beijing’s 798 art district, is at risk of demolition. Huang, a key figure in the Stars art movement, has admitted the studio was constructed illegally ten years ago, but suggests that instead of demolition it could be transformed into a cultural centre – the studio was designed by Mars Architects, Shanghai, using bricks from Qing and Ming dynasty hutongs (salvaged from period buildings demolished in the runup to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games). The artist believes that its slated removal is part of a government campaign to plant more trees around the capital, as a counter to increasingly severe air pollution.

Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and founder of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, has plans for a new foundation, Art Bridges, loaning works for shows of American art and assisting in moving exhibitions across the US. ‘This is about engaging communities through providing access and learning opportunities, as well as allowing for experimentation in exhibition development’, Walton said in a statement.

König Galerie is opening a space in London on 5 October, turning a 348 square-metre former carpark in Marylebone into König Archiv & Souvenir. The gallery, which was founded in 2002, currently has two locations in Berlin. Its London outpost will act as both a space for exhibitions as well as a social hub (along the model of its St. Agnes location in Berlin, a former 1960s church).

London's Herald St gallery has also announced a second space in the city on Museum Street. The inaugural exhibition will be by Michael Dean, opening this month.

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