Leo Villareal to illuminate London's bridges; Kader Attia files plagiarism lawsuit against French musicians


Digital rendering of Leo Villareal’s planned project for the River Thames, London. Courtesy: © Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Digital rendering of Leo Villareal’s planned project for the River Thames, London. Courtesy: © Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

  • Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced that US artist Leo Villareal will lead on a GBP£20m project to illuminate the 17 bridges of the River Thames, which runs through the heart of the city. Villareal previously collaborated with the State of California to produce ‘Bay Lights’, a project that saw 25,000 LED white lights installed across the San Francisco Bay Bridge from 2013-15. His work in London, which will eventually span 6 nautical miles, will be permanent. Speaking after Khan at a press event, Villareal said: ‘Our aim is for a lighting master-plan which reduces pollution and wasted energy, is sensitive to history and ecology and subtly rebalances the ambient lighting on the river to provide a beautiful night-time experience for residents and visitors.’
  • French artist Kader Attia, who was recently awarded the 2016 Marcel Duchamp Prize, has filed a plagiarism lawsuit against two French rappers, Dosseh and Nekfeu. Attia claims that the silver survival blankets that feature in the music video for the pair's recent song ‘Putain d'époque’ are lifted from his 2007 work Ghost, which is held in the collection of the Centre Pompidou. A number of cultural figures have spoken out against the lawsuit, with South African artist Kendell Geers urging Attia to ‘take it as a huge compliment’. In his defence, Attia said: ‘As artists, we have to defend ourselves against unauthorized commercial uses of our artworks’. He also condemned Geers’s involvement: ‘I am appalled to see he had to resort to such low blows to draw attention to himself.’
  • Speaking at the recent Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference in Abu Dhabi, French President Francois Hollande announced that France will contribute USD$30m towards a new fund established to protect cultural heritage sites during times of conflict. The UAE has added a further USD$15m towards the fund, which comprises donations from over 40 countries and amounts to USD$100m in total.
  • Belgian artist Jan Fabre has come under fire from Russian Orthodox fundamentalists and animal rights activists for his latest exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, which includes over 200 stuffed stray animals. Sophia Kishkovsky, reporting for The Art Newspaper, cites the museum’s wall text, which accentuates Fabre’s good intentions: ‘Abandoned, starving, hanging around near busy roads, these animals are afforded a final accolade in this art. Like an exorcist, Jan Fabre tries to bring them back to life in a carnivalesque set-up.’ Mikhail Piotrovsky, the general director of the Hermitage, commented that extreme condemnation that this exhibition has inspired ‘has shown the overall level of hatred that exists in Russia, hatred for the other’.
  • Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf has announced that the city will establish a USD$1.7m fund to create more affordable spaces for arts organizations in the city. The announcement comes shortly after a warehouse fire at a communal studio and living space for artists killed 36 people. In a statement, Schaaf said: ‘The arts are at the centre of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighbourhood health and wellbeing, yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement’.

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