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Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks’s Detroit Home Offered Up For Auction

In further news: UK High Court upholds Giotto export ban; Cleveland Museum of Art launches conservation centre for Chinese paintings

Rosa Parks’s Detroit home. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Rosa Parks’s Detroit home. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The former Detroit home of civil rights activist Rosa Parks has been offered up for auction. The three-bedroom home, where the civil rights activist lived with 17 relatives, was put up for auction this week and was expected to fetch between US$1 million to US$3 million. It did not sell during the auction, but Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey’s told the Chicago Sun Times that a buyer who had difficulty entering a bid online approached him after the auction expressing interest. Parks, who is widely known for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in 1955, sparked the bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, and eventually sought refuge in Detroit after receiving death threats. Her niece Rhea McCauley bought the house in 2016 for USD$500, teaming up with Berlin-based US artist Ryan Mendoza to save it from demolition. In April 2017, Mendoza dissembled the home and brought it to Berlin where it was re-assembled and opened to the public. Mendoza returned the home to the US in early 2018. The artist has said that he hopes the house will be put on public display again.

In the UK, a High Court ruling has upheld Arts Council England’s export ban on a GB£10-million Giotto painting, Madonna con Bambino (c.1297).  The court found that ACE was right to reject an application to export the painting to Switzerland – in 2007 the work was brought to the UK from Italy illegally by collector Kathleen Simonis (the export license had expired). Simonis bought the painting for GB£3,500 at an auction in 1990 – while it was originally believed to be by a Giotto imitator, restoration work revealed that it was realized by the Renaissance master. With the painting now left in a legal limbo, Simonis is planning to appeal the court ruling.

New York artist Susan Unterberg has been revealed as the founder and sole patron of the annual Anonymous Was A Woman award. Unterberg has remained anonymous since founding the prize in 1996, which gives a US$25,000 award to 10 under-recognized female artists over the age of 40; she launched the initiative after the National Endowment for the Arts stopped giving grants to individual artists. After more than two decades of secrecy, the 77-year-old photographer decided to disclose her identity in a bid to serve as a vocal advocate for women artists. Unterberg commented: ‘I founded Anonymous Was A Woman to fill a void that I witnessed personally: support for women artists in the middle stages of their careers.’ She said that she had remained anonymous in order to keep the focus on the artists and their work. The no-strings-attached award has given more than US$5.5 million over the past 22 years to recipients including Amy Sherald, Carrie Mae Weems and Betye Saar.

The Queens Museum in New York has announced the 43 artists and collectives participating in its upcoming biennial. Titled ‘Volumes’ and opening on 7 October, the Queens International will focus on the role of artists as ‘professional non-specialists’. Drawn this year from across 15 neighbourhoods and several generations, with the majority of featured artists being women, the biennial celebrates art-making in the borough. The 2018 edition is organized by Sophia Marisa Lucas, assistant curator at the Queens Museum, and New York performance artist Baseera Khan. Lucas commented: ‘Many artworks in the exhibition address the analogue and digital, but they aren’t about nostalgia vs. the status quo […] These artists propose analogues within those frameworks, they exacerbate or collapse those distinctions, and conjure opportunities for integration.’

Cleveland Museum of Art is to launch a conservation centre for Chinese paintings after being gifted US$1.5 million. The donation received from June and Simon K.C. Li matches a US$1.5 million endowment challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The new centre is reportedly part of a larger project to rectify the lack of Chinese panting conservation expertise in the US. In a statement, CMA director William Griswold said that the grants would ‘enable solutions that will effect great change in the industry and ensure the care of Chinese paintings for generations to come.’ The Li Center for Chinese Paintings Conservation will also launch a new annual residency programme for emerging conservators.

In movements: Rhana Devenport has been appointed director of the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, making her the first female director to run the 137-year-old institution; The Rubin Museum of Art in New York has hired Daneyal Mahmood as director of exhibitions; Kristina Newmann-Scott has been appointed president of Brooklyn arts organization BRIC; and Marta Gili is stepping down as director of the Jeu de Paume in Paris – she has been in the post for 12 years.

In gallery news: Charles Saumarez Smith, formerly director of the National Portrait Gallery and then the National Gallery in London, and currently chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, is to join Blain|Southern gallery as senior director; Pace Gallery has announced representation of Mary Corse in Asia – a show of the Los Angeles-based artist will go on view in May 2019 at the gallery’s H Queen’s space in Hong Kong, with another show in November at its outpost in Seoul; New York’s Miles McEnery Gallery is opening a second space in Chelsea, with an inaugural show of painting by Michael Reafsnyder and Patrick Wilson.

And finally, art world scammer Anna Delvey is getting the Netflix treatment. The 27-year-old Delvey (whose real last name is Sorokin), posed as a German heiress ‘planning’ to open a visual arts centre. She was arrested in 2017 on six charges of grand larceny for swindling upwards of US$275,000 out of acquaintances and hotels. Although detailed information about the project has yet to be released, the show is set to be produced by Shonda Rhimes, who acquired the rights to the New York article by Jessica Pressler that brought Delvey’s story to prominence.

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