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LA MOCA Director Philippe Vergne Out, Just Two Months After Firing Chief Curator

In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British museums’s colonial loot

Philippe Vergne, 2016. Courtesy: Justin Bridges

Philippe Vergne, 2016. Courtesy: Justin Bridges

Philippe Vergne, 2016. Courtesy: Justin Bridges

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, has announced that director Philippe Vergne is resigning. Vergne has been with the institution for four years. The museum says that it has mutually agreed not to renew his contract, which is set to end in March 2019. Vergne’s departure follows a tumultous year at LA MOCA. Just two months ago, Vergne fired chief curator Helen Molesworth – although the museum did not elaborate on the circumstances, the decision became a matter of fiery art world debate (explanations ranged from a clash of curatorial values to claims of poor workplace behaviour). That incident followed artist Mark Grotjahn withdrawing from the museum’s annual gala, held in his honour, citing a lack of diversity in past honorees. Vergne’s own departure has also become a matter of recent speculation, when he put his USD$4 million Hollywood Hills mansion up for sale last month. ‘I am proud that we achieved the range of artistic and education programmes that were central to the mission I set in motion when I first became director thus contributing to the museum’s financial stability and its expanded audience,’ Vergne said in a statement.

In a landslide victory for the #RepealThe8th campaign, the Republic of Ireland has voted against its abortion ban by 66.4% to 33.6%, in a referendum held on Friday. The Eighth Amendment currently regards the mother and unborn child as having an equal right to life. In the runup to the historic vote, artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, wrote for frieze on what was at stake.

BBC historian David Olusoga has suggested that British museums return colonial loot to help post-Brexit trade relations, in a speech at Hay literary festival. He said: ‘There are real senses of loss in those countries – it’s beneficial to us as a nation to listen to those appeals.’ And Olusoga cited a friend’s solution: a special edition of Supermarket Sweep where each country is given a shopping trolley and two minutes in the British Museum. Along with Mary Beard and Simon Schama, Olusoga is a presenter on the BBC’s show Civilisations, which aired this year (a reboot of the 1969 Kenneth Clark original Civilisation). Don’t miss Nathaniel Budzinski on the message of the television series, new and old.

The Venice Architecture Biennale was hit by a #MeToo-inspired flashmob last Friday. Organized by architectural designer Caroline James, alongside Farshid Moussavi and Odile Decq, the ‘Voices of Women’ event protested ‘prejudices’ against women in architecture, and took place in the Giardini, blocking the exhibition’s main avenue. Martha Thorne, chief executive of the Pritzker Prize, read from a manifesto at the event: ‘We are united in denouncing discrimination, harassment and aggressions against any member of our community. We will not tolerate it. We will not stand silent’, she said.

In gallery news: New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery now represents the estate of Stuart Davis – an exhibition, ‘Lines Thicken: Stuart Davis in Black & White’ will go on show from 13 September; and Thomas Dane Gallery in London has announced representation of Anthea Hamilton – the artist’s installation The Squash is the current Tate Britain Duveen Galleries commission (you can read our recent interview with Hamilton here).

In awards news: PinchukArtCentre has announced the jury for the 5th edition of its Future Generation Art Prize, which will include Pablo León de la Barra, Björn Geldhof, Helen Molesworth, Gabi Ngcobo, Tim Marlow, Christine Macel and Hoor Al Qasimi. The award invites artists aged 35 or under from anywhere in the world to apply, with a USD$100,000 prize; meanwhile the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation and Wuhan’s Big House Contemporary Art Center have announced the new NOVA Prize, which comes wih a USD$16,000 award, for emerging artists working in new media; and historian Kenneth Frampton has scooped the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Architecture Biennale – the Golden Lion for Best Individual Participant went to architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, and the Golden Lion for National Participation to Switzerland.

And finally, artist Taryn Simon has created a new frozen installation for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary art. In A Cold Hole, museum visitors are invited to leap into icy water. According to the Art Newspaper, a layer of ice has been laid on the gallery floor, with a hole cut through to form a plunge pool, filled with salt water. Visitors can sign up to jump into the freezing water, in an experience inspired by public cleansing rituals.

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