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Trump’s Sanctions and Travel Bans are Killing Iran’s Art Scene

In further news: Activists protest Luke Willis Thompson at Turner Prize exhibition opening; Helena Almeida (1934–2018)

Donald Trump, 2018. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump, 2018. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump, 2018. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

US President Trump’s policies are reportedly killing Iran’s art scene, as trade sanctions and travels bans begin to affect the country’s cultural landscape. As reported by CNN, Trump’s withdrawal from a nuclear agreement with the country, in addition to economic sanctions, have had an adverse effect on the Iranian art world. Shahrzad Moaven, founder of a PR firm, told CNN that several sponsors of the Iranian Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale dropped out after political tensions with the US: ‘When Trump announced the travel ban and renewed economic sanctions against Iran, they withdrew interest as they believed it would be press-sensitive and that they would not be able to secure business in Iran.’ Younger artists are being affected as they now have limited ability to attend exhibitions and promote their work abroad. Sanctions have also caused the cost of art supplies to surge. Iran had been experiencing an art boom in recent years. In 2016, a Tehran art auction broke records with sales of USD$7.4M, and in 2017, Iranian artists accounted for more than half of the GBP£2.1 million of revenue at Sotheby’s Middle East auction in London.

Activists protested the inclusion of artist Luke Willis Thompson at the opening of the 2018 Turner Prize exhibition, wearing ‘Black Pain Is Not For Profit’ T-shirts. Members of the art collective BBZ London alongside other activists, staged a protest at Tate Britain on Tuesday against the New Zealand artist’s nominated work autoportrait (2017), first shown at Chisenhale Gallery. The work is a silent black-and-white film portrait of Diamond Reynolds, an African-American woman who broadcasted a police officer’s killing of her boyfriend Philando Castile live on Facebook in 2016. The BBZ group released a statement on Instagram, saying that they decided to take a symbolic stand against ‘the utilisation of Black Death and Black pain by non-black artists and arts institutions for cultural and financial gain.’ Thompson is of white and Fijian ancestry – a statement from Tate said: ‘Luke Willis Thompson does not identify as white […] He links his own position as a New Zealander of Fijian descent, treated as a person of colour in his home country, to that of other marginalised and disempowered communities.’ Don’t miss our review of the Turner Prize show: can a ‘mere’ competition also speak truth to power?

Swedish museum directors are calling for an advisory panel for Nazi-looted art cases. Director of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet Daniel Birnbaum and Olle Granath, the former director of Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum, have submitted a proposal to the Swedish government asking them to create an independent panel to assist with the handling of cases of Nazi-looted artworks. ‘It’s immensely important for both Sweden’s government and our museum to not have any work with problematic origins in the collection,’ Birnbaum told The Art Newspaper. The request comes after Moderna Museet’s recent restitution of an Oskar Kokoschka painting which was confiscated during World War II, returning it to heirs of the Jewish collector Alfred Flechtheim.

The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles has acquired the archive of 92-year old artist Betye Saar. The archive collects sketchbooks, prints, exhibition catalogues, and letters from across Saar’s career. James Cuno, president and chief executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust, called Saar a ‘foundational figure’, adding that the acquired materials ‘allow us to understand her thought process and the decisions she made.’ The institute recently launched a USD$5 million initiative focusing on the study of African American art history. The Betye Saar acquisition is the African American Art History’s first venture, and further funds will support curation, publications, conferences, research fellowships, in addition to an oral history project dedicated to recording stories and collaborations with institutions to digitize archival collections.

Chinese curator and writer Li Bowen has been accused of sexual misconduct. An anonymous statement written by a cultural worker under the pseudonym ‘qiaoqiao’ has accused Li, a Beijing-based independent curator and co-founder of Wyoming Project, of ‘repeated patterns of deceit, gaslighting, and abuse.’ The initial statement, first posted on WeChat, accuses Bowen of lying about seeing multiple women at the same time, and also insisting on having unprotected sex repeatedly. The writer says that she ‘couldn’t have imagined other women in the art world were suffering from identical forms of deception, repetitive, long-term emotional abuse, and physical trauma.’ An additional statement explains that though she does not consider the curator’s behaviour to be a ‘‘public incident’ in a legal sense as it does not involve typical abuse of power […] The gravity and pervasiveness of Li’s (mis)conduct is precisely due to the fact that it falls into the grey area between the jurisdiction of law and ethics. This is also the reason why this case urgently needs to enter the public sphere as cultural discourse.’ Activity from Li’s WeChat account has been wiped and he is yet to respond to the allegations. He has resigned from his position as Beijing associate editor at online arts platform Ocula. ArtAsiaPacific has the story here.

Portuguese avant-gardist Helena Almeida has passed away at the age of 84, at her home in Sintra, Lisbon. Born in 1934, Almeida gained international recognition for her interdisciplinary work across drawing, body art, photography and performance. She was widely considered to be one of Portugal’s leading artists and her work was shown at the 1982 and 2005 Venice Biennale. A show of Almeida’s work is currently on view at Tate Modern until 4 November. ‘There is a real purity to Almeida’s use of her materials; when she finds the terms in which she wants to articulate something, she sticks to them,’ Lauren Elkin wrote in 2016. ‘Art is, for Almeida, by turns playful, ironic, inescapable and uncomfortable.’

In gallery news: Marian Goodman Gallery now represents Nan Goldin internationally; David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles represents the artist Fred Eversley; Cosima von Bonin is represented by Gaga in Mexico City; Lisson Gallery has added artist Hugh Hayden to its roster; Galerie Max Hetzler, with spaces in Berlin and Paris, is heading to London, opening at 41 Dover Street this weekend; meanwhile Antwerp’s Tim Van Laere Gallery is moving to a new 1,000 square-metre space in the city next year, designed by Brussels architects OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen; and Juliette Jongma in Amsterdam is closing after 15 years in operation.

In awards and appointments: Isa Genzken has been awarded the 2019 edition of the Nasher Prize by The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and will receive USD$100,000; the National Portrait Gallery of Australia has appointed curator Karen Quinlan as its new director; and Sydney-based artist Natasha Walsh has scooped the Mosman Art Prize, which comes with a USD$36,000 award.

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