National Gallery of Victoria Cuts Security Company After Abuse Claims
In further news: criticism over Great Exhibition of the North’s BAE Systems partner; judge rules Charlottesville Confederate monuments be uncovered
The National Gallery of Victoria has announced that it will no longer employ Wilson Security to provide its security services. The gallery's Wilson Security contract was much criticized last year following allegations of assault and human rights abuses against asylum seekers by Wilson Security employees in Australian offshore immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. In a statement sent to frieze, a spokesperson for the gallery confirmed the transition to a new security provider: ‘Wilson Security was the NGV’s interim security service provider while we were in a Victorian Government procurement process to secure a long-term security services provider. SecureCorp has been appointed as the NGV’s long-term security services provider.’ The Melbourne-based arts association The Artists’ Committee sent an open letter to the gallery signed by over 1,500 people, and staged protests demanding an end to the contract, last year. The association told frieze: ‘We hope that this sends a clear message that there can be no business in abuse. Unethical companies like Wilson Security will face strong community opposition and will no longer be able to operate.’ Artist Candice Breitz made headlines last year when she anounced that she would rename her work included in the inaugural NGV Triennial from Love Story (2016) to Wilson Must Go, as a mark of solidarity with the protests (other Triennial artists including Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Richard Mosse also followed). Breitz commented at the time that it would be ‘morally remiss’ of her ‘to remain silent in the context of the current conversation that is taking place around the Australian government’s ongoing and systematic abuse of refugees’.
Criticism is mounting over the UK’s Great Exhibition of the North, the summer festival of arts and culture in Newcastle, spread across the Great North Museum, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Sage Gateshead. The exhibition has triggered debate on social media as well as an online petition, after it was announced that defence company BAE Systems would be a ‘premier partner’ of the event. BAE announced on 13 February: ‘We’re very proud to be part of the Great Exhibition of the North which celebrates the skills, products and contribution made in the North.’ The musician Nadine Shah commented on Twitter that she would no longer be playing at the festival ‘now that I have discovered BAE Systems are a sponsor. I am disgusted to hear of their involvement and refuse to be in any way associated with them. I encourage all artists involved to follow suit’. Meanwhile a petition demands that the partnership be rescinded: ‘BAE Systems is a ‘premier partner’ of the Great Exhibition of the North though the charity War Child UK has accused BAE of ‘profiteering from the deaths of innocent children’’, it states, ‘The Great Exhibition of the North claims to offer ‘family-friendly fun’. This is totally at odds with its with association with BAE systems.’ Other participating artists in the exhibition include Lubaina Himid, Ryan Gander and Michael Dean. Frieze has reached out to the exhibition’s participating artists for comment, though none have replied at the time of reporting. Sarah Munro, Director of BALTIC and Abigail Pogson, Managing Director of Sage Gateshead, have issued a joint statement acknowledging the concerns raised over the exhibition’s sponsorship, and clarifying that Arts Council England funds are supporting the artistic content presented by the two institutions: ‘We are not in receipt of funds from BAE Systems’, they say, ‘Our conversations and commissions with artists and partners began some months and years ago, well in advance of the announcement of BAE Systems as a Premier Partner of the Great Exhibition of the North.’
A judge in the US has ruled that tarps covering Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, must be removed. Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore said that the coverings must be taken away within a fortnight of the order being filed – the city decided to cover up the statues last August while dealing with the death of two Virginia State Police troopers and bystander Heather Heyer following white nationalist and fascist protests. Read Julian Chambliss writing last year on how public debate around Confederate insignia has little to do with historical fact and everything to do with collective memory.
The BBC has begun broadcasting a new art history television series Civilisations, presented by historians Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga – in a reboot of Kenneth Clark’s landmark 1969 BBC series Civilisation. A US version will be premiered on 27 April on PBS. Read Nathaniel Budzinski’s thoughts on the new series: ‘Civilisations is fun, interesting, and enthusiastic,’ he writes, ‘but its generally cheery narrative is also shot through with some old-fashioned apocalyptic terrorizing, just like its parent.’
The Scottish arts funding body Creative Scotland has announced that it is committed to a ‘root and branch review of how we fund’ following controversy over its decision process which led to total funding cuts for 20 arts organizations, announced last month. Among those dropped from the 2018-21 portfolio of regularly funded organisations was storied Glasgow art gallery Transmission, which triggered widespread dismay in the arts community. Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer told the Scottish Parliament that she was ‘profoundly sorry that the delivery of this process has been such a negative one for many’. Archer said that ‘I am currently in dialogue with everyone involved at every level in the process and I will make sure we learn from this moment and resolve all outstanding issues fairly and openly.’
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has begun its mandatory USD$25 admission charge for non-New Yorkers. The fee change went into effect yesterday morning. The introduction of an admission charge, announced at the beginning year, attracted widespread criticism – read Cody Delistraty on why it shows us the problem with museums’s donor dependence and a hands-off government in the US.
Another gallery share project is heading to New York – Vacation gathers 10 international galleries who will sublease gallery space in the city’s Lower East Side, occupying it from month to month, according to Artnet. The timeshare arrangement was started by the founders of San Francisco gallery R/SF Projects as an art fair alternative, and follows in the footsteps of Condo, Ruberta, ProyectosLA and Okey Dokey. A inaugural group exhibition runs until 3 March, and then Chicago gallery Andrew Rafacz will occupy the space on 8 March, followed month by month by Milan’s Clima Gallery, Bucharest’s Mobius Gallery and Denver’s Gildar Gallery. Read our feature from last year on whether ‘collaborative exhibitions’ are the future for galleries.
The Richard Avedon Foundation is claiming that a biography of the photographer contains over 200 errors and is filled with ‘false facts’. The foundation which represents Avedon’s estate first criticized Norma Stevens and Steven Aronson’s book Avedon: Something Personal (Spiegel and Grau, 2017) last year. This week it released a document with contesting details in the book that range from a personal relationship with Marilyn Monroe to the Avedon’s hair colour and exhibition dates. In an email to frieze, the publisher commented: ‘While the Foundation has created an extensive list of ‘errors’ they perceive in the book, they have provided no evidence that these are in fact errors. In some cases there are differences of opinion or disputes with subjective passages; many of the issues they have raised are of a minute and insignificant nature or are legitimately in dispute.’
In awards news: Barbadian filmmaker Alberta Whittle has won this year’s Margaret Tait Award – the annual GBP£10,000 commission is named in honour of the Orcadian filmmaker, and was initiated by Glasgow Film Festival and supported by Creative Scotland and Lux Scotland – you can read our profile of Whittle’s decolonizing impulse here; and the shortlist for the inaugural Henrike Grohs Award organised by the Goethe Institute and Grohs family for an Africa-based artist has been announced: Em’kal Eyongakpa, Georgina Maxim, and Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (the winner is announced on 13 March).
In openings: The Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art will launch in London this September with a solo exhibition by Mika Rottenberg – London-based architecture collective Assemble, winners of the Turner Prize in 2015, were chosen to develop the new gallery spaces – Director Sarah McCrory commented: ‘ We are really excited to be making the inaugural exhibition with Mika, and to be commissioning two new works for the exhibition which will be installed in response to the renovated building’; and the refurbished Camberwell College of Arts will open on 5 March after a GBP£62 million regeneration with new teaching spaces and a public gallery, designed by Stephen Marshall Architects.
And finally, we are sad to hear of the passing of filmmaker Angela Ricci Lucchi. Our Milan-based contributing editor Barbara Casavecchia interviewed her and her partner Yervant Gianikian back in 2016, which you can watch over here.