‘No Initiative Or Ideas’: Was Chris Dercon Forced Out of the Volksbühne?

In further news: Kenneth Frampton receives Golden Lion at Venice Architecture Biennale; and MoMA sues a cafe for copyright infringement


Chris Dercon speaking at the Istanbul Modern Art Museum in 2015. Courtesy: Wikicommons

Chris Dercon speaking at the Istanbul Modern Art Museum in 2015. Courtesy: Wikicommons

Did Chris Dercon leave his post as director of Berlin’s storied Volksbühne theatre because he lacked the vision for the job? Following his resignation last week further details around his departure have been reported in the German-language press. ‘There was no initiative or ideas from Dercon about what to do’, the city’s culture senator Klaus Lederer told newspaper Tagesspiegel. An initial joint statement between Dercon and Lederer, after the former stepped down after less than six months in the job, said that his concept ‘did not work out as hoped’.

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The Museum of Modern Art, New York, is suing MoMaCha, a cafe in the Bowery neighbourhood of Manhattan, for copyright infringement, in New York federal court. The museum argues that the green-tea cafe, which also says it is an art gallery, uses a name and branding that is too similar to its own. MoMA claims that visitors are confused and now think that it is related to the cafe, which opened this month, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile MoMA has been gifted Chris Ofili’s painting The Holy Virgin Mary (1996) by Steve Cohen. New York mayor Rudy Giuliani infamously called the artwork ‘sick’ and anti-Catholic when it was included in Brooklyn Museum’s 1999 exhibition ‘Sensation’ (Giuliani unsuccessfully threatened to cut off the museum’s subsidies and evict it from its premises). The piece features a black Virgin Mary, genitals cut out from pornographic magazines, and elephant dung. ‘As an altar boy, I was confused by the idea of a holy Virgin Mary giving birth to a young boy,’ Ofili once said. ‘Now when I go to the National Gallery and see paintings of the Virgin Mary, I see how sexually charged they are. Mine is simply a hip-hop version.’

TIME magazine’s annual list of its 100 most influential people is out, and this year includes artists Kehinde Wiley, Judy Chicago and JR. In an accompanying comment, rapper LL Cool J praised Wiley for ‘transforming the way African Americans are seen.’

Istanbul’s arts space SALT Beyoğlu has reopend after a hiatus of over two years. SALT closed the venue in January 2016, claiming ‘technical reasons’ although rumours pointed to government pressure (the organization continued to hold exhibitions and events in other spaces in Istanbul and Ankara). A survey exhibition of Aydan Murtezaoğlu and Bülent Şangar, prominent in Istanbul’s scene in the 1990s, titled ‘Continuity Error’, is now on view until 22 July.

Copenhagen Contemporary Art Centre is reopening in a new permanent space on Refshale Island this June. Occupying a 7,000 square metre hall, formerly an industrial welding plant, the arts centre will launch a programme under new director Marie Nipper, who previously served as interim artistic director at Tate Liverpool.

Fondazione Prada’s Milan complex has been completed with the opening of the new Torre, a 60-metre-high white concrete tower, designed by Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA – it’s the final structure added to the former gin distillery, which dates back to 1910, located in the south of the city.

In awards and appointments: architect Kenneth Frampton is the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale – ‘he stands out as the voice of truth in the promotion of key values of architecture and its role in society’, biennale curators Yvonne Farrell and Sheley McNamara said; Mophradat has announced its 2018 Consortium Commissions, which awards up to USD$22,000 in grants to emerging artists from the Arab world – participants this year are Basma Alsharif, Shadi Habib Allah, Yazan Khalili, Maurice Louca, Jasmina Metwaly, and nasa4nasa; and London’s ICA has announced a new advisory Independent Film Council which includes Tilda Swinton, Laura Poitras, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Naeem Mohaiemen and Erika Balsom.


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