Sep 03 2021

Real Solutions: Weekly News Roundup

by The Editors

“Wetland,” the Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates, at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2021. Photo by Andrea Avezzù. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.

UAE Pavilion Nabs Golden Lion at Venice Architecture Biennale

On August 30, the United Arab Emirates was awarded the Golden Lion for National Participation at the 2021 Architecture Biennale. Commissioned by the Abu Dhabi-based Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and curated by architects Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, “Wetland” explored an eco-friendly cement made from recycled industrial waste brine. The material was then hand-cast into branched shapes and built into a 2.7-meter-tall structure reminiscent of the region’s traditional coral dwellings. The structure was accompanied by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi’s large-scale projected photographs of sabkhas (salt flats), which inspired the curators’ research. The international jury praised the curators for “a bold experiment which encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production at both the local and global scales, and opens to new construction possibilities between craft and high technology.”

Painter BEN QUILTY (right) pictured next to author Richard Flanagan with an Afghan family in a refugee camp, 2016. Image via the artist’s Instagram.

Ben Quilty’s Afghanistan Campaign Raises USD 3.4 million

Sydney painter Ben Quilty, who served as Australia’s official war artist in Kabul in 2011 and has also created artworks responding to the global refugee crisis, has raised more than AUD 4.6 million (USD 3.4 million) to aid the Afghan populace amid the country’s ongoing political instability following the Taliban’s takeover. Quilty’s fundraiser will benefit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whose representatives are currently providing people in Kabul with shelter, necessities, and other assistance. Launched over a week ago with a target of AUD 30,000 (USD 22,200), “For Afghanistan” has since received donations of AUD 1 million (USD 736,400) each by tech entrepreneurs Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, and philanthropist Karen Wilson, who will additionally match donations of up to AUD 3 million (USD 2.2 million). Artists also joined in the efforts, with Angus McDonald auctioning his 2019 Archibald Prize-nominated portrait of Afghan Australian lawyer and activist Mariam Veiszadeh for AUD 62,000 (USD 45,900), and Peter Drew contributing AUD 17,050 (USD 12,600) with the sale of a screen stating “REAL AUSTRALIANS SAY WELCOME,” based on his well-known 2015 poster campaign calling for better treatment of asylum-seekers in Australia. Donations can be made here

Exterior view of the Phimai National Museum. Image via WikiCommons.

Thailand Biennale 2021 Reveals Full Artist List

The Thailand Biennale, Korat 2021 will feature 54 artists and collectives from 26 countries and territories. Conceived by artistic director Yuko Hasegawa with curators Tawatchai Somkong, Vipash Purichanont, and Seiha Kurosawa, the Biennale, titled “Butterflies Frolicking on the Mud: Engendering Sensible Capital,” will showcase site-specific commissions responding to historical, social, cultural, and environmental elements of Korat and the wider Isan region. Manila-based artist-activist Yllang Montenegro will create an installation of live plants and aprons sewn by Korat’s Filipino migrant community. Meanwhile, Tsuyoshi Tane’s research-based work will engage with the historical and archeological collections of the Phimai National Museum. Originally slated for 2020, the Biennale will take place from December 18 to March 31, 2022.

Exterior view of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing. Courtesy UCCA.

UCCA to Expand Again

Beijing’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Art is planning a fourth location in Chengdu, according to The Art Newspaper. The new branch is slated to open in 2024 as part of the International Art Island, an upcoming cultural hub in Tianfu New Area that UCCA director and chief executive Philip Tinari will also be involved in as the development’s artistic advisor. Alongside UCCA’s outpost, the Island will host a new concert hall for the China Philharmonic Orchestra and a museum dedicated to the sculptor Ye Yushan. UCCA will additionally unveil a sideline museum, U2 by UCCA, at Beijing’s Chaoyang Joy City mall in mid-December this year. Designed by architect Ziyu Zhuang, the 3,000-square-meter space includes a main gallery, a smaller performance space, a garden for public art projects, and a restaurant. UCCA’s new sites follow two major expansions in the past few years: the Shanghai museum, Edge, launched in May, while UCCA Dune opened in Beidaihe, a coastal resort not far from Beijing, in 2018.

Installation view of JUN YANG‘s “The Artist, His Collaborators, Their Exhibition, and Three Venues” at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Taipei, 2021. Image via MoCA’s Facebook.

Kunsthaus Graz Director Backs Jun Yang in MoCA Dispute

Barbara Steiner, the director of Kunsthaus Graz and one of the curators who worked with Jun Yang on “The Artist, His Collaborators, Their Exhibition, and Three Venues” (2020–21), has weighed in on his spat with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Taipei. The dispute was sparked by MoCA’s attempts to cancel Yang’s exhibition back in late 2019, due to alleged misunderstandings between the museum’s then-incoming director Loh Li-Chen and her predecessor Yuki Pan, who had personally greenlit the exhibition but then resigned before its approval by the museum committee. Following Yang’s public airing of grievances on social media and a series of counter-posts by Loh and Pan, Steiner issued her own statement on August 31 corroborating Yang’s claims. According to her statement, which was shared on the Facebook page of the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts (KdMoFA), one of the partner venues for Yang’s three-part exhibition, Steiner had observed during a preparatory meeting in early 2020 the “lack of interest shown by the representative of [MoCA].” Neither Loh nor any curator from MoCA “was available to talk” at the time. The “situation worsened” when Loh posted her “disturbing message” accusing “fake foreigners” of taking “all the resources” in Taiwan—a rant that Yang and Steiner seem to believe was aimed at him—on the same day that his exhibition opened at KdMoFA. Steiner remarked, “even if this did not address Jun Yang directly by his name, it is a very disconcerting comment. This xenophobic, racist comment of a director of a public city museum is embarrassing and not worthy of a representative of an international, contemporary art institution.” She added that Loh was absent at the MoCA opening of Yang’s exhibition, and supported the artist’s claim that the museum deliberately “delayed the legally guaranteed publication” online of a lecture in which Yang addressed the controversy. Steiner concluded by lambasting the “scandalous behavior” toward Yang. “This is not a good performance for MoCA or the city of Taipei.”

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