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Ralph Rugoff announced as curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale

In further news: documenta artists protest ‘profit-above-everything’ motive; Monir Museum opens in Tehran; Beijing artist on the run over eviction footage

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Ralf Rugoff, curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale. Courtesy: the Art Fund; photograph: © Marc Atkins

Ralph Rugoff, curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale. Courtesy: the Art Fund; photograph: © Marc Atkins

Ralph Rugoff has been announced as the curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale. The 58th edition will be held from 11 May to 24 November, 2019. Based in London, Rugoff has been Director of the Hayward Gallery since May 2006, prior to which he was Director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco. Over the past 11 years at the Hayward, Rugoff has curated solo exhibitions by Jeremy Deller, George Condo, Tracey Emin, Ed Ruscha and Carsten Höller and group exhibitions including ‘Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture’ (2006); ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ (2007), and the recent off-site exhibition ‘The Infinite Mix’ (2016). In 2012, he organized the project ‘Wide Open School, 100 International Artists Reinvent School’ and was Artistic Director of the 13th Biennale de Lyon in 2015. Read Rugoff’s frieze review of Francesco Bonami’s 50th Venice Biennale from 2013 here and Chris Wiley’s review of this year's 57th Biennale, curated by Christine Macel, here.

More than 200 artists and curators who took part in documenta’s last 10 editions have started a petition in protest against the quinquennial exhibition being ‘technocratically reduced’ to a ‘commercial enterprise’. Signatories include past documenta participants Rosalind Nashashibi, Naeem Mohaiemen, Sam Durant, Michael Rakowitz and Christian Boltanski, as well as Hal Foster and Charles Esche. The statement calls for a reform of documenta’s supervisory structure away from a ‘profit-above-everything’ motive, and sets out five steps: a commitment to institutional decolonization, a new supervisory structure which is made up of both elected officials as well as cultural representatives, no future confinement to sites in Germany, the full funding of the exhibition’s archive, institute and public art programme, and the maintenance of its non-profit status. It further acknowledges documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk’s expansion of non-Western perspectives, distance from the commercial market and deployment of ‘new political geographies’ through this year’s dual Kassel-Athens locations. Greek art theorist Angela Dimitrakaki (who participated in documenta 14) warned of a ‘social reality where the right to dissent, critique, imagine, may be authorised or not depending on speculation about profits’, and told frieze that the proposals in the letter were intended as a challenge to ‘this new way of disciplining critical voices in the art field’. The letter chastises documenta’s board for remaining silent while members of the far-right German party AfD have sued the exhibition’s curatorial team, and an AfD politician described works included in the exhibition as ‘ideologically polarizing, deformed art’. Hans Haacke, who participated in documenta’s 5, 7, 8, X and 14 editions, told frieze that ‘a lot is at stake’ in the conflicts over the exhibition: ‘The attacks on documenta 14 need to be understood in the context of the rise of xenophobia in Germany, after Angela Merkel welcomed war refugees, and the lawsuit filed by the right-wing AfD party against documenta’, he said. The new petition, titled ‘Protect documenta against profit obsession’, comes after months of debate around documenta 14’s EUR€5.44 million deficit, the public disputes between the board and the exhibition’s organizers and the handling of an audit report which blamed documenta’s satellite location in Athens for being the cause of the overspend. Artists from this year’s documenta 14 have already released two open letters: September saw over 200 artists sign a letter in solidarity with the curatorial team denouncing ‘shaming through debt’, and a new letter was released at the beginning of this month which called for the exhibition to ‘stay free from political interference’. Greek artist Angelo Plessas, who took part in this year’s documenta, told frieze that Athens being blamed for this year’s exhibition deficit ‘shows that while the curatorial team was committed to two equal documentas, the politicians on the supervisory board were only committed as long as it made money’.

A major funding cut has put the future of the UK’s Towner Art Gallery, situated in Eastbourne, in jeopardy. Proposals by Eastbourne Borough Council will see its annual investment of GBP£614,000 slashed by GBP£200,000 in April of next year, and then incremental reductions towards a 50% reduction over 4 years. Speaking to frieze, the Towner’s acting director Niamh Pearce said that the ‘speed and severity of the cut’ would ‘inevitably be felt across our most public facing areas – exhibitions and learning programmes – and therefore by Eastbourne’s residents and visitors’. Pearce pointed to the gallery’s Learning and Outreach Programme as well as support and creative development it provides for vulnerable groups. Such uncertainty over future funding would make programming for the gallery difficult. ‘The council are passing up the opportunity to use the arts to drive forward the local tourist economy, at a time when other coastal towns are doing just that’, Pearce said. The broadcaster David Dimbleby, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Towner, said in a statement that the proposed cuts put ‘at risk everything that Towner stands for’. The council says that proposed cuts are linked to the reduction of regional funding. The gallery is the largest of its kind in South East England outside of London, and holds a significant permanent collection of works by Eric Ravilious.

New York’s Whitney Museum has announced that the 2019 Whitney Biennial will be curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley – both are currently on the museum’s curatorial staff. The Biennial opens to the public in May 2019. Adam D. Weinberg, the museum’s Alice Pratt Brown Director, commented: ‘I eagerly anticipate the show that these two talented curators will organize in response to the dramatically shifting cultural, social, and political landscape of the present.’ The Whitney’s 2017 Biennial was the subject of considerable public debate after the inclusion of a Dana Schutz painting of Emmett Till, Open Casket (2016) triggered protests calling for its removal.

The Monir Museum opens in Tehran, Iran, today – the museum is devoted to the work of Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, situated in a former 19th century palace in the city’s Negarestan Garden. It’s the first institution in the country devoted to the work of a single female artist, and the largest permanent display of Farmanfarmaian’s work. Farmanfarmaian, whose signature pieces include mirrored glass mosaics and reverse glass paintings which take inspiration from Iranian architectural motifs and Islamic art, has given the institution 50 works from her personal collection. Farmanfarmaian left Iran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979, but returned to the country in 2004.

In prizes and grants news: the Guggenheim has named the shortlist for the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize (the biennial prize comes with a USD$100,000 cash award and 2019 New York solo show at the museum). The finalists are Bouchra Khalili, Simone Leigh, Teresa Margolles, Emeka Ogboh, Frances Stark and Wu Tsang – the winner will be announced in late 2018. The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded USD$12.8 million to 253 research and education projects across the US including New Mexico nonprofit gallupARTS , and a Northwestern University research project devoted to the conservation of Georgia O’Keeffe works (other grantees are listed here). New York foundation Art Matters has announced its 2017 grantees – annual awards of USD$7,500 each for artists working with social issues (the full list is here). Founder of the K11 Art Foundation Adrian Cheng has been awarded the Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for contributions to promoting French culture in China, and his role in cultural exchange between the two countries. And applications for the UK’s Art Fund Museum of the Year 2018 are now open – the deadline is 6 February 2018.

Beijing artist Hua Yong is on the run after releasing footage of migrant workers being evicted from their homes. The last month has seen the abrupt eviction of thousands of migrant workers in the Chinese capital’s slum neighbourhoods (our contributing editor Carol Yinghua Lu recently wrote about what the evictions should mean for those working in the arts). Hua has fled Beijing and is relying on friends to move him from city to city. The New York Times reports that it isn’t Hua’s first clash with Chinese authorities – he was sentenced to a labour camp in 2012 for a performance in memory of the 1989 pro-democracy protests.

The Biennale of Sydney has announced the artist list for its upcoming edition which runs from 16 March to 11 June 2018. The exhibition is titled ‘Superposition: Equilibrium & Engagement’ and is curated by the Mori Art Museum’s chief curator Mami Kataoka – artists include Samson Young, Haegue Yang, Ai Weiwei and Suzanne Lacy. You can find the full list over here.

And finally, the Art Newspaper reports that China has lifted an embargo on Korean art – the ban came after a US anti-missile system was installed in Seongju, South Korea, 11 months ago, which led to many popular cultural imports from South Korea being unofficially suspended.

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