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  • Jan 29, 2021

Rebuilding and Renewing: Friday News Roundup


Still fresh from the hopes and aspirations of New Year's celebrations, arts and cultural groups are wasting no time in moving forward to reconstruct and renovate after last year's tumult. Here is a look at some of these initiatives from the past week.

British artist and author Edmund de Waal announced on January 25 that he will donate more than 2,000 books from his installation library of exile (2019) to the Mosul University Library in Iraq, which saw much of its 1 million volumes—one of West Asia’s largest collection—burned along with its building in 2015 by Islamic State forces (ISIS). Featuring a porcelain-covered pavilion and books by 1,500 exiled authors from antiquity to the present, including Volatire, Samar Yazbek, and de Waal’s grandmother Elisabeth, the installation debuted at the Venice Biennale 2019. It has since traveled to Dresden’s Japanisches Palais in 2019 and London’s British Museum in 2020. The porcelain pavilion, inscribed with names of lost libraries including Mosul's, has been gifted to the Warburg Institute in London.

Lunar New Year postage stamps designed by CLARENCE LEE, 1992. Courtesy the Museum of Chinese in America, New York.

On January 22, New York’s Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) announced via Twitter the launch of a major partnership with Google Arts & Culture, making hundreds of items from its archive accessible online. Since the devastating fire that broke out one year ago in the museum’s storage building, which held approximately 85,000 historical items of Chinese immigrants, MOCA’s crowdfunded recovery campaign has raised more than USD 460,000 to date. MOCA’s new virtual exhibition, “Trial by Fire: The Race to Save 200 Years of Chinese American History,” documenting the rescue and recovery process and is also available for viewing on the Google platform.

A portrait of WANG JIE. Courtesy Bonhams.

Auction house Bonhams announced on January 26 that it has appointed Wang Jie as its chief representative in China on January  26. Based in Shanghai, Wang will work with chairman for Greater China, Bobbie Hu, to strengthen the house’s brand recognition among mainland Chinese clients. Wang previously worked as the founding managing director of Hong Kong’s Tiancheng International Auctioneer, since 2011. Prior to this, she was Christie’s chief representative and business development director in China, and Sotheby’s chief representative and deputy director of China and Southeast Asia.

A portrait of LEE KUN-HEE. Image via

Amid speculations of future sales, the extensive collection of Korean and Western art assembled by South Korea’s most influential businessman, conglomerate Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, who died in October 2020, is now under appraisal, according to The Korean Herald. Lee’s collection of more than 12,000 pieces of antiques, and modern and contemporary art reportedly includes 20 pieces deemed as National Treasure by the South Korean government, as well as works by acclaimed 20th-century artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Mark Rothko, and Francis Bacon. With an estimated value of more than KRW 1 trillion (USD 905 million), specialists speculate that while some pieces will likely go to museums such as the family’s Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, others may be auctioned to pay the family’s estimated KRW 11 trillion (USD 9.8 billion) inheritance tax, which needs to be paid in April. 

Image of MADSAKI

Fans of Japanese American artist MADSAKI and toy company Mattel's iconic Masters of the Universe franchise can get their hands on the artist’s limited-edition capsule featuring Mattel’s superhero He-Man starting from today. The project was inspired by the artist’s exhibition “1984,” at Tokyo’s Kaikai Kiki Gallery in 2020, which showcased sculptures and paintings by MADSAKI styled after the eccentric animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983–85). The series had a profound impact on the artist, bridging cultural differences for a young boy who relocated to Bergen County, New Jersey, from Osaka. The limited-edition capsule includes a 38 cm Battle Cat sculpture in MADSAKI’s signature neon colors and spray painted details, a lunch box set, artist prints, hats, and clothing.

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