Tension and Pressure: Friday News Roundup
By The Editors
Increasing global political turmoil and financial troubles have greatly impacted the art world recently, and artists and art workers are rising up collectively to face these challenges. Here is a look at these and other key events from the past week.
Interdisciplinary artists Hương Ngô and Hồng-Ân Trương canceled their performance And And And—Stammering: An Interview (2010– ) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA) in show of solidarity for MCA staff who were let go on January 21 due to pandemic-induced financial constraints. Previously part of MCA’s group exhibition “Alien vs. Citizen,” which was installed last July and runs until February 21, And And And simulates a naturalization interview, where visitors can experience the process for obtaining United States citizenship. The layoff constitutes 11 percent of the museum’s workforce, including 17 full-time staff and 24 part-time staff.
Amid recent mass arrests of students protesting against the presidential appointment of professor Melih Bulu as Boğaziçi University’s new rector, five students were arrested on January 30 over a reportedly LGBTQ-themed artwork displayed in a student-run exhibition. The poster, created by an anonymous artist, depicts a rainbow flag along with the mythical half-woman, half-snake shahmaran at Islam’s most sacred site, the Kaaba in Mecca. The exhibition was organized by student collective BOUN Sanat Direnisi who posted an open call for artworks and was held as part of the resistance calling for Bulu’s resignation, as his political associations with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are seen as a threat to the school’s academic freedom. One student has since been released, while two are under house arrest and two are jailed awaiting trial.
On February 3, the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art issued a public statement condemning the Tatmadaw’s coup d'état two days earlier. “We visual artists, as Myanmar citizens, are against Myanmar army’s violent seizure of state power (treason). We always stand with our elected President U Win Myint and our elected State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We stand with all #Civil Disobedience movement,” reads the declaration. On February 2, a group of 15 Burmese and international artists held an online candlelight vigil. Protest actions such as pot banging, lighting candles, and strikes have spread across the country since its democratically elected leaders were taken in military raids on February 1.
Kim Chang-il, artist, art collector, and chairman of the Arario Group, which runs Arario Gallery (Cheonan / Seoul / Shanghai) and Arario Museum (Seoul / Jeju Island), was sentenced to two years in prison by the Daejeon District Court on January 27. According to The Korea Herald, Kim was charged with “a breach of duty involving the operation of a concession stand at a cinema” in the Cheonan Bus Terminal owned by the Group. Specifics regarding the charges remain undisclosed. Kim owns one of the largest contemporary art collections in the world, featuring artists such as Gerhard Richter and Nam June Paik. A spokesperson from Arario Group reported that Kim is planning to file an appeal.
The design competition for Melbourne’s 30,000 square-meter contemporary art and design museum, the National Gallery of Victoria’s NGV Contemporary, part of the government’s AUD 1.46 million (USD 1.12 billion) project for the city’s arts precinct, opened on January 29. While the competition will be judged by a panel of Australian and international specialists, only Australian teams are allowed to submit designs, and one member must be a Victorian business. Tony Ellwood, NGV director and a member of the competition jury, stated that the Australian-only recruitment would showcase homegrown talent and avoid the predictability of cultural projects designed by global “star-chitects.” The registration closes on March 4, while the successful team will be revealed in late 2021.
On January 29, it was announced that William S. Smith will become the head of digital and editorial content within the curatorial department of Hong Kong’s museum of contemporary visual culture, M+ , as reported by ArtNews. Smith was previously editor in chief of the magazine Art in America for more than three years. During his seven-year tenure at the magazine, he expanded the thematic content of the publication, expanding its focus on Indigenous art and new styles of realism. Prior to this, Smith was a co-founder of the online magazine Triple Canopy in 2007. M+ is currently under construction and plans to open in late 2021, following a series of delays.
On February 1, construction for the private Hunan Museum of Modern Art, which houses the collection of founder and businessman Liao Feng Ju, was completed. Situated at the three-year-old, 141-hectare, CNY 2 billion (USD 310 million) Houhu International Art Park in Changsha, the capital of China's Hunan province, the museum neighbours the provincial Hunan Museum and the Hunan Academy of Arts. Liao will serve as the museum’s director, and his collection of modern Chinese calligraphy and paintings will be showcased at the museum’s inaugural exhibition opening on June 1.
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