Weekly News Roundup: January 28, 2022
By The Editors
Art Basel Dislodges FIAC from Paris’s Grand Palais
In a shock to the French art industry, Art Basel and its parent company MCH Group won a EUR 10.6 million (USD 11.8 million), seven-year contract to organize a modern and contemporary art fair at Paris’s historic Grand Palais, beginning in October 2022. The announcement by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais (RMN-GP), led by the controversial former head of Tate Modern, Chris Dercon, followed the issue of an open call for bidding in December, and comes as devastating blow to the 47-year-old Parisian art fair, FIAC. RX France, FIAC’s parent company, which also runs the annual Paris Photo in November, described RMN-GP’s decision as “hasty and flawed,” characterized the open call last December as a “hostile eviction attempt,” and reserved its right to mount a legal challenge. Art Basel plans to establish a new Paris-based organization to the run the fair, which will incorporate elements of design and fashion alongside modern and contemporary art. The first edition of the yet-unnamed event will take place in the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris, since Grand Palais is temporarily closed for renovation through 2024.
MCH Group to Re-invest in Art SG
The Swiss events conglomerate MCH Group, Art Basel’s parent company, acquired a 15-percent share of stocks in Art Events Singapore, the organizer of the five-times delayed art fair Art SG. MCH Group had previously sold all of its shares in the organization in 2018. According to the announcement on January 24, Art Basel aims “to contribute to the long-term strength of Asia’s growing art scenes,” which also supports the company’s core business in Hong Kong. In the past few months, Art Basel has collaborated with other regional platforms in Asia such as SEA Focus and Art Week Tokyo, providing support and expertise in communications, organizations of programs, and networking. Art SG has been postponed due to the exit of MCH Group in 2018 and uncertainties caused by Covid-19. The fair’s debut is now scheduled for January 12–15, 2023 at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
Australian Government Purchased Aboriginal Flag for Free Use
On January 25, the Australian government purchased the copyright of the Aboriginal flag for over AUD 20 million (USD 14 million) in order to resolve the conflicts over the legitimacy of its usage. Indigenous artist Harold Thomas first created the flag for a demonstration in the National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee Week, the annual week of events celebrating the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in July 1971. The artist penned an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, and explained that the flag was created “as a symbol of unity and pride.” Thomas also minted the work as a NFT on December 21 last year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the design. In recent years, Aboriginal groups have criticized how private copyrights surrounding the flag require people to pay for its usage. The flag has been recognized as an official national flag since 1995 and an emblem of the Aboriginal groups of Australia for 50 years.
TBA21-Academy Calls for Support for Tonga
The art organization TBA21-Academy released a statement in solidarity with Tonga on its website on January 19, following a devastating eruption caused by the submarine volcano Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai on January 14. The organization encouraged donations to the online campaign launched by the athlete Pita Taufatofua, who held the Tonga flag at the Tokyo Olympics, and the International Red Cross. TBA21-Academy also released the video Hunga Tonga filmed by the Danish art group Superflex in 2019. According to the statement, the eruption is 1,000 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima. Currently, Tonga is covered by a thick layer of volcanic ash and is recovering from a tsunami up to 15 meters tall that hit the coasts of the Tonga archipelago, with dozens of people still missing.
Curatorial Duo Named Winners of Para Site’s Open Call
The curatorial duo Nomaduma Rosa Masilela and Thiago de Paula Souza won the seventh edition of Hong Kong nonprofit Para Site’s annual Open Call for Emerging Curators. Their proposal examines the hindrance in reconnecting with each other during the pandemic and global uprisings related to racial inequalities, governmental violence, and ecological issues, asking “How do we learn to love each other while we are embattled on so many fronts?” Berlin-based Masilela and São Paulo-based Souza first collaborated at the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art in 2018, where they both served on the curatorial team. The jury panel of the open-call this year included Amsterdam-based independent curator Christina Li and curator at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, Xiaoyu Weng, along with Para Site’s executive director Cosmin Costinas, curator Celia Ho, and deputy director Kelly Ma.