As Museums Reconsider Saudi Ties After Journalist’s Murder, Russia Takes Kandinsky Show to Riyadh
In further news: German pavilion announces artist for Venice; Emmanuel Macron urges art world to fight extremism
With the Saudi government now admitting that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in their embassy in Istanbul, leading cultural institutions and arts professionals across the world are reassessing their links to Saudi Arabia in light of the dissident journalist’s death. The British architect Norman Foster withdrew from the USD$500 billion Saudi Arabian ‘mega-city’ project Neom, and New York’s Brooklyn Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art have suspended Saudi sponsorship. But the anxieties have not extended, it seems, to the Russians. The Art Newspaper reports that works by Wassily Kandinsky, loaned from St Petersburg’s State Russian Museum to Riyadh’s Future Investment Initiative – crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ‘Davos in the Desert’ – are in fact a teaser for a major Kandinsky show to be held in Riyadh, which is expected to take place early next year.
The German pavilion for next year’s edition of the Venice Biennale has been announced: organizers have said that the country will be represented by Natascha Süder Happelmann, a pseudonym donned by the artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian. The pavilion will be curated by Franciska Zólyom, director of Leipzig’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Don’t miss Martin Herbert’s 2013 frieze feature on how Haghighian’s works record and refract the mechanisms of power.
Germany’s Bauhaus Dessau Foundation is under fire for allegedly cancelling a performance following right-wing protests, as detailed in a new open letter signed by more than 100 leading art world professionals. The letter – whose signatories include Daniel Birnbaum, Kasper König, Hito Steyerl and Anne Imhof – criticized the decision to pull a concert by anti-right-wing punk band Feine Sahne Fischfilet in order to observe a principle of neutrality, saying that it had ‘done serious damage to democracy and cultural life in Germany, Europe and beyond’. Director Claudia Perren told Die Zeit: ‘We heard of a mobilization of right-wing radicals in connection with this concert. We did not want to offer the right-wing radicals a platform in front of the Bauhaus.’
French president Emmanuel Macron has urged the French art world to work together to create a cultural policy that can challenge extremism: ‘fighting against obscurantism [extremism], and the marginalization of creation and culture’. In comments made to arts professionals in a gathering at the Élysée Palace in Paris, Macron also promised reform of the visa system for foreign artists.
An electrical fire at Dia:Beacon art museum in upstate New York was caused by an electrically-powered Mary Corse artwork, which reportedly overheated. The Light and Space artist’s work was damaged, but the rest of the museum’s collection escaped harm – the fire, which broke out on Saturday evening, was extinguished within the hour. The museum did not disclose which of Corse’s works triggered the blaze.
London’s Studio Voltaire have revealed details of a major expansion project, which will include the renovation of its gallery spaces and add new artists’s work spaces, education rooms, a garden and cafe. The expansion, which is due to conclude in 2020, will also see the launch of an Associates Programme which will award artists with free studio spaces on a biennial basis. The GBP£2.3 million project is being led by architects Matheson Whiteley.
In awards and grants news: the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art is the recipient of a USD$5 million gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation to fund digitization of materials in its archive pertaining to underrepresented artists, in a bid to diversify scholarly sources; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has been honoured with the 2019 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence, presented by New York’s Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, which comes with a USD$25,000 prize; and Hito Steyerl has scooped the 2019 Käthe Kollwitz Prize, which comes with an award of EUR€12,000.