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V&A Director Tristram Hunt Hits Back at Critics of Demolished London Housing Estate Shown at Venice

In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning brown?

Robin Hood Gardens, 1972, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. Courtesy: © The Victoria and Albert Museum

Robin Hood Gardens, 1972, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. Courtesy: © The Victoria and Albert Museum

Robin Hood Gardens, 1972, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson. Courtesy: © The Victoria and Albert Museum

The director of London’s V&A museum, Tristram Hunt, has defended the decision to install a section of the demolished London housing estate, Robin Hood Gardens, at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. In an article for The Art Newspaper, Hunt hit back at the ‘keyboard warriors and ‘art-wash’ agitators’ who have taken issue with the museum resurrecting Alison and Peter Smithson’s brutalist icon. ‘[Critics argue that] Robin Hood Gardens was part of a failed social experiment of inhuman modernism, which we should not be using public funds to embalm. However, our role is to think beyond fashion and to preserve that which has significant design merit, and with which future generations will seek to engage,’ Hunt writes. The museum’s acquisition of a section of Robin Hood Gardens, a part of which is displayed in Venice, has received attention from campaigners who say the move is complicit with social cleansing and ‘poverty tourism’. There have been protests at the London museum, as well as in Venice. Don’t miss Crystal Bennes writing for us on the Venice installation: ‘Perhaps on occasion fragments can teach us more about what it means to live together than buildings themselves,’ she says.

A missing finger from a famous 4th century bronze statue of Emperor Constantine, fragments of which are held in Rome’s Musei Capitolini, has been discovered in the Louvre. The piece was originally registered in the Louvre collection as a ‘Roman toe’. But researcher Aurelia Azema realized that the object was actually an index finger, and with the help of other specialists, proved that it made a perfect fit for the statue in Rome. It’s still unknown why Constantine’s finger became separated.

After more than four decades in operation, Exeter’s Spacex is closing its doors. The UK arts organization says that funding cuts mean that its programming has become ‘unsustainable’. It was founded in 1974, and has shown artists including Phyllida Barlow, Jeremy Deller and Bridget Riley. But it was removed from the Arts Council England National Portfolio for the 2015-18 funding round.

After a 12-month hiatus, Birmingham arts space Eastside Projects is reopening. The gallery closed last June, its future in doubt – but it’s opening its doors again after a GBP£250,000 makeover, supported by Birmingham City University, Arts Council England, Custard Factory and K4 Architects. Eastside Projects is inaugurating its next phase with two shows: General Public’s ‘The Endless Village’ exploring ‘life, localism and trade relations in an imagined future post-EU Britain’ and an exhibition by Seoul-based ollective Mixrice. ‘There’s been a lot of positives that have come out of what at first seemed a very bad situation,’ director Gavin Wade told A-N News.

Meanwhile, South London Gallery has launched a GBP£25,000 crowdfunding campaign, to raise funds for the final stages of its Fire Station renovation. The gallery is taking over the former Peckham Road Fire Station, a Grade II-listed Victorian building over the road from the SLG. Scheduled to open in September, it will offer new exhibition and educational spaces. The fundraiser is open until 2 July 2018.

Germany’s Kunsthalle Mannheim has revealed a new EUR€68m million extension. EUR€50 million came from billionnaire and SAP software company founder Hans-Werner Hector. The new structure has been designed by Hamburg architects Gerkan, Marg and Partners, with a glass and steel building in bronze mesh. It will feature a significant collection of Anselm Kiefer artworks, on a long-term loan, alongside an inaugural temporary exhibition of Jeff Wall photographs.

Glasgow-based artist and Turner Prize nominee Charlotte Prodger will represent Scotland at the 2019 Venice Biennale, commissioned and curated by Linsey Young with artist residency programme Cove Park – Prodger’s video work ‘will build on her sustained exploration of ‘queer wilderness’’. And the Center for Contemporary Arts, Estonia, has announced that Kris Lemsalu will represent Estonia at Venice next year – don’t miss Patrick Langley writing for us last year on the artist’s chimerical creatures.

New research has led Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum to reconsider how it preserves the artist’s 1889 Sunflowers painting. X-rays show that the yellow paint used is light sensitive, and flower petals and stems are turning olive-brown. Although the paint change is not visible to the naked eye, parts of the painting are likely to degrade. The museum’s head of collection and research told the Guardian that the revelations would have serious consequences for many of Van Gogh’s works. ‘We know that the discoloured pigment chrome yellow has been used a lot by Van Gogh, we assume that this has also been discoloured in other paintings,’ Marije Vellekoop told the paper.

And finally, Hong Kong’s Central Police Station has reopened as the Tai Kwun arts centre. It’s been over a decade in the making, with the Jockey Club and government announcing plans in 2007. It has been designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The centre’s arts programme will kick off next week with a group exhibition ‘Dismantling the Scaffold’, curated by Christina Li, and a show by Hong Kong artist Wing Po So.

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