Briefing

Leonard Cohen passes away; Cairo's Townhouse Gallery reopens; accusations of censorship hit the Shanghai Biennial

leonard_cohen_during_a_press_conference_in_warsaw_poland_march_1985._courtesy_krzysztof_sitekpa_images

Leonard Cohen during a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, March 1985. Courtesy: Krzysztof Sitek/PA Images

Leonard Cohen during a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, March 1985. Courtesy: Krzysztof Sitek/PA Images

  • Leonard Cohen, one of the foremost songwriters of his generation, has passed away at the age of 82. Cohen, who was born in Montreal in 1934, released his first album in 1967. Since that point, more than 2,000 recordings of his songs have been made, an achievement that led to his being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, two years before he was presented with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In his final interview, which was conducted by David Remnick in Los Angeles this summer, Cohen opened up about his ongoing battle with illness and the prospect of death, adding: ‘Spiritual things, baruch Hashem [thank God] have fallen into place, for which I am deeply grateful.’
     
  • A film by Chinese artist Sun Xun that was being shown as part of this year’s Shanghai Biennial has been pulled by the Shanghai Cultural Bureau, prompting accusations of state censorship. The 2011 work, Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined Yet In The Revolution, which was included in a group exhibition at the Minsheng Art Museum Shanghai, was replaced by a sign reading ‘The work is unable to be shown as part of the exhibition due to non-technical reasons’.
     
  • Townhouse Gallery, a contemporary arts space in downtown Cairo that was forced to close in April after armed police enforced the partial demolition of its main building following a partial collapse, has reopened, taking up residence in a converted paper factory. William Wells, the director of the non-profit, said that the institution expects to meet with the same regulations that are currently being imposed on all cultural institutions: ‘Almost every work, exhibition, music performance, theatre or film presentation needs to have permission from the appropriate syndicate or censors …There is no flexibility.’
     
  • Berlin’s Akademie der Künste has published an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel, urging her to work toward freeing the cultural figures who have been imprisoned in Turkey following the failed military coup in July. The letter, which was penned in collaboration with 11 other German institutions, said: ‘We will continue to demonstrate our solidarity with the imprisoned and persecuted by means of invitations, joint artistic projects and cultural policy debates.’ (German)
     
  • The Wall Street Journal is set to restructure its print publication, a move that will see its arts-specific coverage reduced and folded into a new catch-all section called ‘Life & Arts’, which will encompass lifestyle, the arts, sport and any other cultural content. The decision has reportedly been made in response to what the publication calls ‘an industrywide decline in print advertising.’ However, editor in chief Gerard Baker also added: ‘we know from audience research that readers want a more digestible newspaper.’

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