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Briefing

Christo abandons controversial 25-year project in protest against Trump; Roman Polanski forced to drop out of César Awards

Christo, Over the River (Project for Arkansas River), 2007, concept drawing. Photograph: Wolfgang Volz

Christo, Over the River (Project for Arkansas River), 2007, concept drawing. Photograph: Wolfgang Volz

  • After 25 years of planning, lengthy legal battles, and a personal cost of USD$15m, Bulgaria-born artist Christo has abandoned plans to install a vast public artwork in Colorado, in protest against President Donald. Titled The Gates, the project would have seen a silvery canopy suspended over 42 miles of the Arkansas River, which runs through federal land. Explaining his decision, Christo said: ‘I came from a Communist country. I use my own money and my own work and my own plans because I like to be totally free. And here now, the federal government is our landlord. They own the land. I can’t do a project that benefits this landlord.’
     
  • Franco-Polish film director Roman Polanski has pulled out hosting this year’s César Awards, after 61,000 people signed a petition calling for a boycott of the event. Polanski, who is now 83 and lives in Paris, faces charges in the US over a historic child sex conviction. In a statement circulated by French news outlet Agence France-Presse, Polanski’s lawyer, Hervé Temime, called the controversy ‘unjustified’, adding that the entire affair had ‘profoundly saddened’ the director.
     
  • The finalists of the 2017 Absolut Art Awards for Art Work and Art Writing have been announced. The six nominated artists are Simon Denny, Anne Imhof, Shahryar NashatCameron Rowland, Anicka Yi, and Samson Young, while the shortlisted art writers are Huey Copeland, Johanna Fateman, Orit Gat, Isabelle Graw, and frieze contributing editor Shanay Jhaveri. The winners of each category will be announced on 12 May the 57th Venice Biennale.
     
  • November Paynter has been announced as the new head of programming at Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto, following Chantal Pontbriand’s abrupt departure in April of last year. Paynter, who will assume the role in February, is currently director of research and programming at SALT, a Turkish non-profit institution based in Istanbul and Ankar.
     
  • The Foundation for Contemporary Art (FCA) has announced the recipients of its annual grants, which are distributed between the fields of dance, music/sound, performance art/theatre, poetry, and visual artist. The 14 recipients include Andrea Fraser, Aki Sasamoto, A.L. Steiner, and George Trakas. The FCA have also presented the fifth annual Robert Rauschenberg award to Jimmie Durham, the second biennial Merce Cunningham Award to Linda Austin, and the inaugural Dorothea Tanning Award to poet Liz Waldner.
     
  • Stephanie Stebich has been appointed new director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. Stebich, who is currently the director of the Tacoma Art Museum, will assume the position in April, at which point she will succeed Elizabeth Broun, who retired last year. In an official statement, Stebich said: ‘This is a dream position. This is an institution I’ve always admired, one of the jewels in the Smithsonian crown.’
     
  • John Akomfrah has been named the winner of this year’s Artes Mundi, the UK’s biggest prize for international contemporary art, for his film Auto Da Fé, 2016. He berated the ‘bleak culture of fear and intolerance’ he said had gripped Britain. The biennial award, held in Cardiff, which comes with £40,000 prize money, focuses on artists who engage with social and political issues and the human condition. With the film’s engagement with humankind’s long tradition of migration and refugees, and the current political condition in the UK and US, Akomfrah said the work felt ‘even more urgent’ than when he completed it a year ago.
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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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