• News
  • Aug 18, 2023

Weekly News Roundup: August 18, 2023

KEITH WIKMUNEA, winner of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Photo by Charlie Bliss.

2023 Winner Announced of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards 

The Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (Telstra NATSIAA) named Aurukun artist Keith Wikmunea as the winner of the AUD 100,000 (USD 64,000) top prize for his sculpture with Ku’, Theewith & Kalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah and the Wandering Dog (2023). The sculpture made from a north Queensland milkwood tree features carved white cockatoos and galahs in the branches, which the artist said represented his familial lineage. The tree itself is painted in colors representing the Thu’ Apalech people and the dog hails from the artist’s ancestral song lines and represents a family protector. Six other winners received AUD 15,000 (USD 9,600) in categories including painting and works on paper. The all-Indigenous jury consisted of National Gallery of Australia curator Kelli Cole, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair director Janina Harding, and La Perouse artist Peter Yanada McKenzie. The Telstra NATSIAA award exhibition opened on August 12 at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) in Darwin, and continues until February 18, 2024.

Gallerist ESRA SARIGEDIK OKTEM. Photo by Berk Kir. Courtesy IKSV.

Venice Biennale Turkey Pavilion Curator Steps Aside Amid Istanbul Biennial Controversy

The curator of artist Gülsün Karamustafa’s presentation for the Turkey Pavilion at the next Venice Biennale resigned on Monday August 14, amid the controversy around the selection of the next Istanbul Biennial’s curator. Esra Sarıgedik Öktem, who runs the commercial art agency Büro Sarıgedik that represents Karamustafa, was selected by the artist to curate the Turkey Pavilion, which is organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). In early August, İKSV found itself the target of criticism after a report in The Art Newspaper revealed that the Istanbul Biennial’s advisory board had unanimously recommended a proposal by Berlin-based curator Defne Ayas but that İKSV had instead selected advisory-board member Iwona Blazwick as the next curator. Öktem resigned from her role as curator of the Turkey Pavilion citing the “need for a more transparent selection process” and criticizing “the lack of mutual communication” at İKSV over its handling of the Istanbul Biennial curatorial selected. She also noted that she had prepared to take on the Pavilion’s curatorial role after she said she had “redefined my role in a way that would keep me separated from the day-to-day operations of the business side of representing Gülsün Karamustafa.”

(left) JEFF POE and (right) TIM BLUM. Photo via Instagram @blumandpoe.

Long Running Gallery Partners Split Up

The Los Angeles gallerist duo with long ties to the Japanese art scene and a gallery in Tokyo, Jeff Poe and Tim Blum, have parted ways after three decades of working together. On Monday August 14, Poe said he would be “stepping back” from Blum & Poe, although the gallery would retain its name. Matt Bangser, previously a director of the gallery’s New York location and a partner, was promoted to managing partner. Poe said in a statement that he would be “going down a simpler and more fluid path” and continue to work with art and artists, but gave no concrete plans. Since its founding in 1994, Blum & Poe has worked with superstar Japanese artists including Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara, and held exhibitions surveying postwar Japanese art. The gallery represents more than 60 artists internationally from more than 15 countries and announced “a range of new initiatives” to be announced in the coming months. 

Exterior of the Central Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photo by Francesco Galli. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.

New Zealand Cancels Pavilion at 2024 Venice Biennale

For the first time in two decades New Zealand will not have a pavilion at the Venice Biennale, citing “inadequate resources” as well as funding and workload issues. According to a 2022 review of the country’s participation, despite support for New Zealand’s continued presence at the event “there is now widespread recognition that key aspects of the selection and delivery of the country’s representation are no longer sustainable.” However, Creative New Zealand, the government’s national arts development agency, has acknowledged that it will be returning to the world’s biggest contemporary art festival in 2026, 2028, and 2030. Despite the absence of a national pavilion, a number of yet-to-be-announced New Zealand artists will be showing at the international central exhibition, titled “Foreigners Everywhere,” while Caitlin Devoy and Areez Katki will present work at the seventh edition of the biennial parallel exhibition project Personal Structures, having received funding from Creative New Zealand. The 60th edition of the Venice Biennale runs from April 24 to November 24. 

Graffiti on Brick Lane in London by WANG HANZHENG. Photo via Instagram @yiqueart.

Chinese Art Student Daubs Political Slogans on East End Wall

Chinese artist Wang Hanzheng (aka Yi Que) has sparked controversy over his latest work, East London’s Socialist Core Values (2023). On August 4, Wang, together with a cadre of fellow students, spray-painted a popular wall in London’s Brick Lane with twelve red-on-white slogans representing the “core socialist values” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including “harmony,” “patriotism,” and “rule of law”; some covered a tribute to late graffiti artist Marty. In an Instagram post, Wang, a student at the Royal College of Art, wrote: “In the name of freedom and democracy, it illustrates the cultural center of the West, this is London’s freedom. Decolonise the false freedom of the West with the construction of socialism, let’s see what happens.” The slogans have since been painted over by competing graffiti, many with anti-CCP sentiments, including the word “no” being added before the Chinese characters for “democracy.”

Subscribe to ArtAsiaPacific’s free weekly newsletter with all the latest news, reviews, and perspectives, directly to your inbox each Monday.