Out of the ashes
After the disastrous fire at the Cuming Museum, in south London, in March, there had to be a hurried change to the programme. “Baptized by flame” was the unfortunate title of a storytelling performance linked to a temporary exhibition on the ceramics of the Martin Brothers. Now it is simply billed as “the marvellous melancholy of the Martin Brothers”. Southwark councillor Veronica Ward says that it’s important for the programme to go ahead, despite the “awful fire”, and a new venue has been found for the 16 May event. Meanwhile the Martin Brothers gallery has not even been entered by staff since the fire over a month ago, because of the dangerous condition of the building. We can only hope that the Cuming will rise like a phoenix.
Bankers back London graffiti artists
Were there ever two stranger bedfellows? Merrill Lynch, the wealth management and investment banking arm of Bank of America, has launched a public art project in southeast London in conjunction with Tate and Graffiti Life, a London-based collective of street artists and designers. Inspired by the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at Tate Modern, which is also sponsored by Merrill Lynch (until 27 May), 60 young people aged between 16 and 25 who are not in work, education or training have created a large-scale outdoor work, due to be unveiled on 2 May at the Bankside Open Spaces Trust. Following a five-day workshop led by Graffiti Life in which the young people were taught some of the techniques used by Lichtenstein, the mural was created at Nutbrook Studios, a collection of industrial buildings in Peckham that has been transformed into an arts hub. “It’s about taking art out of a museum context and into a public space, where it can be shared more widely,” says Iona Thomas, a project manager at Graffiti Life.
Brooklyn Museum gives guests dinner and a show
The Brooklyn Museum held it’s Artists Ball last night and a slew of New York’s artistic elite came out to party. The annual event, which raises funds for the museum, honoured the long-serving trustee Barbara Knowles Debs, as well as the artists Vik Muniz, Roxy Paine and Wangechi Mutu (read an interview with Mutu here). As guests ate at tables creative decorated by local artists, the artists Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw performed in giant papier-mâché masks on a catwalk set precariously over the dinners’ heads.
She loves him
Tracey Emin’s deep love of Docket, her cat, is well known. Indeed, you can buy Emin-designed “I Love Him. I Love Him. I Love Him X” mugs or a Docket cat bowl with the same romantic message from the official Emin International online store (£12 and £35 respectively). Collectors with a bigger budget who share her feline soft spot take note. Emin’s latest work includes a sculpture of Docket, asleep in the shape of a comma. The news of this latest chapter of the cat in art was broken by the Mail on Sunday this weekend in a profile of the former YBA-turned-Royal Academician. In the meantime, Docket is, of course, well represented in “Tracey Emin: My Photo Album”, which is due to be published by Fuel on 6 May (£19.95).
Met buys Ritz hotel's uncovered masterpiece
This previously unrecorded canvas by Charles Le Brun, the official painter to Louis XIV, was sold at auction in Paris this week to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for € 1.44m, a world record price for the artist. The Sacrifice of Polyxena, 1647, was discovered by the dealer Joseph Friedman at Paris’s Ritz hotel, just before the historic building closed for a two-year renovation. The painting had hung in a suite that was home to the fashion designer Coco Chanel for more than 30 years and a spokeswoman for the Met says the work will hopefully go on view in May, in the museum's newly expanded European paintings galleries.
Worth a shot
Just as Banksy begat Mr Brainwash, so Mr Brainwash begat Hijack—his 20-year-old son who is, quelle surprise, also a street artist. Not known for being a wallflower, Mr Brainwash worked the crowd at Hijack’s “world debut show” at the Mead Carney Gallery in London last night, stopping once in a while to pose for the paps. But it seems Mr Brainwash only has eyes for one photographer. “David Bailey wants to shoot me,” he said, hastily adding, “with a camera, not a gun”. Bailey, we are told, has yet to be wooed by the daring Mr Brainwash, but we are grateful for the clarification nonetheless.
Clothes from Ryan and Cory
Art and fashion are very cosy bedfellows, so it's no surprise that the high-profile artists Ryan Gander and Cory Arcangel have designed their own clothing collections. Gander's limited edition menswear line is launched in collaboration with the Tokyo-based label A.Four Labs. "The garments themselves function on a number of levels; each is to be worn, enjoyed and lived in, yet there is the added dimension of the artist’s research, development and practice instilled in each piece. The artist’s work let loose in the everyday world," says an informative press statement. But Gander hasn't gone completely fashionista, having also made what is described as "a tongue-in-cheek bastardised version of a Hermès scarf". The Brooklyn-based digital artist Arcangel is also about to launch his own line of clothing and accessories called "Arcangel Surfwear". "It’s all designed for comfortably surfing…. the web of course," quipped a project spokesman. The artist also appears to enjoy turning fashion on its head; his last show at Lisson gallery in London featured a pair of lead-filled Ugg boots.
Bice bags a new job
The high-profile Swiss curator Bice Curiger has a new job: artistic director of the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation in the southern French city of Arles. Curiger is an art world veteran with a weighty CV; in 2011, she curated the 54th Venice Biennale and in 1984 co-founded the influential Parkett journal. She also worked as a curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich for 20 years. The foundation, launched in 1983, moves to a new home next year based in the Hôtel Léautaud de Donines. It has commissioned various artists, including Francis Bacon and Roy Lichtenstein, to create works inspired by the fabled Dutch painter, who is believed to have shot himself in the chest in 1890.
Being arty in Alighiero's atelier
The Brooklyn-based artist Rebecca Ward is making her presence felt. Not only is she the subject of an extensive exhibition at Ronchini Gallery in London ("Cow Tipping", until 18 May), which includes her paintings and installations, last year she was also commissioned by Stella McCartney to create a trademark tape installation for the fashion designer's SoHo store in New York. Ward now plans to retreat to the former studio of the late conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti later this month, located on the estate of the Boetti family home overlooking the Umbrian countryside, where she will make new works for a show at Bibo's Place, a gallery in Todi, Perugia, co-owned by Boetti's son Matteo. The show pairs emerging artist Ward (born in 1984) with the established Italian abstract painter, Carla Accardi, aged 88 (18 May-7 September).
Moscow to get major Gulag museum
Russia might finally get a major museum to honor the millions who died in the Soviet-era network of labour camps known as the Gulag. “A big museum will open in Moscow next year on the basis of the small Gulag museum,” said Sergei Karaganov, an outspoken political scientist who sits on the Kremlin’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, speaking at a news conference in late March. Karaganov said “an entire network” of Gulag museums would open. The existing State Museum of Gulag History, to which he referred, is cramped and underfunded. Last year, Karaganov criticised the Russian government for failing to honor victims of Soviet repression, and as recently as 2007, a manual for Russian teachers called Stalin an “effective manager”. Activists and officials have also been discussing turning Moscow’s 19th-century Butyrka prison into a museum and St Petersburg’s Kresty into a “creative cluster”. Both are fortress-like structures with dramatic tsarist and Soviet-era histories, and still serve as functioning prisons. — Sophia Kishkovsky
Robert Redford calls sale of Hopi masks “sacrilege”
The actor, director and activist Robert Redford has called a forthcoming sale in Paris of Hopi artefacts “a sacrilege” in a letter supporting the tribe’s attempts to halt the auction. Around 70 sacred masks, representing Hopi spirits such as the Crow Mother, the Little Fire God and the Mud Head Clown, are due to go under the hammer at the Néret-Minet auction house tomorrow.
“As a close friend of the Namingha family and of the Hopi culture, these ceremonial artifacts are of sacrimonial value and belong to the Hopi and the Hopi alone. To auction these would be, in my opinion, a sacrilege—a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions,” Redford says in his letter. “I would hope that these sacred items can be returned to the Hopi tribe where they belong. They are not for auction.”
A Paris judge agreed to hold a hearing today about the auction’s legality and the decision is expected tomorrow. The auction house has said that all the items in the collection were legally bought in the US over three decades starting in the 1930s, and that the sale complies with French law.
Naked men on the march
An exhibition organised by the Leopold Museum in Vienna, with a marketing campaign that caused world-wide blushing, is due to travel to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, in September. “Nude Men: From 1800 to the present day”, which surveys the naked male form though the ages, made headlines at the beginning of the year after a wave of protests forced the museum to censor its exhibition posters. Plastered across the city and reproduced widely in the international press, the posters featured the work Vive la France, 2006, by the French artists Pierre & Gilles, depicting three naked footballers whose genitals had to swiftly be covered up. But the exhibition attracted a record number of visitors and, in February, the museum even hosted a tour of the show for 300 nudists. The exhibition will be on show in the French capital from 23 September to 2 January 2014, probably causing much less furore. — Julia Michalska
How Margaret Thatcher made UK museums into world leaders
Margaret Thatcher was cordially disliked by the British academic community—famously, Oxford University members voted against giving her an honorary degree—but in her belief that public institutions should give value for money and be accountable, but also masters of their own fate, she was indirectly responsible for reforms to Britain’s national museums that helped make them the flexible and creative places they are today. Her reforms in public funding gave them the freedom to manage their own financial affairs, raise money from the private sector and run publishing and merchandising companies. Tony Blair’s governments then insisted that they reach out to segments of the population that previously never dreamt of setting foot in a museum. This combination, managed by exceptionally gifted directors such as Nicholas Serota and Neil MacGregor and trustees such as Jacob Rothschild, who understood accessibility without vulgarity, has given the UK museums that are world leaders in their influence. — Anna Somers Cocks Click here for how the artists loved to hate her.
Auctioneer's long march for charity
The art world was taken aback last August when Henry Wyndham, Sotheby's senior auctioneer and European Chairman, was caught up in a serious shooting accident. During a grouse shoot on a Scottish estate, Wyndham was treated for 52 lead pellet wounds after a nearby gun sprayed shot in his face, throat and arm. Fortunately, he was wearing glasses which meant his eyesight was saved. “The experience really brought home to me how challenging life must be for those without the gift of sight,” says Wyndham who apparently featured in Jilly Cooper’s novel “Pandora”. Not one to rest on his laurels, the auction house supremo has now decided to raise money for the eyesight charity Orbis. Wyndham won't be bathing in a tub full of cold baked beans (the usual charity stunt) but will undertake instead a 190-mile “coast to coast” walk next month across the UK, from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire. To donate online, go to: www.virginmoneygiving.com/HenryWyndham
You can't keep Marat down
St Petersburg’s Fontanka.ru news site has posted photographs of graffiti that appeared on Wednesday at the Tkachi art space, threatening the cultural impresario Marat Guelman over his controversial “Icons” exhibition. When the show opened in St Petersburg last week to a surprising lack of protest, Guelman boasted in his blog about the calm reception—but that seems to have been short lived. Slogans splattered on Tkachi’s outer walls included “Guelman, you are a corpse,” and were signed simply “Cossacks”. The show includes art by nearly two dozen contemporary artists addressing religious themes, and many works resemble Russian Orthodox icons. Any mention of religion in contemporary art has become especially controversial in Russia since last year’s Pussy Riot trial over the feminist collective’s “punk prayer” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. Cossacks protested and a priest spat at Guelman when “Icons” opened in the Krasnodar region last spring. An attempt to show it in St Petersburg last October was called off by the Rizzordi Art Foundation. But, ever the optimist, Guelman has said the exhibition might form the basis of a new museum. — Sophia Kishkovsky
What Vicente did next
The art world has been wondering what Vicente Todolí, the former director of Tate Modern in London, is up to. Last year, the Valenica-born museum supremo launched his own brand of extra virgin olive oil, Tot Oli, which derives from the 400 olive trees he planted 14 years ago in the mountains of Alicante. Now, Todolí is gearing up for his new gig: artistic advisor for the vast HangarBicocca contemporary art space in north-east Milan. Todolí, who will oversee the exhibition programme from this autumn, is tight-lipped about his plans but says: “The unique industrial nature of HangarBicocca's vast spaces allows a symbiosis between art and architecture that I [have] rarely experienced elsewhere. I am excited to be designing its artistic programme, and [am] keen to be involved in the long-term, passionate commitment of [venue sponsor] Pirelli towards this outstanding international art project.” But a project spokeswoman threw some light on the development, saying: “Todolí will work on approximately eight shows featuring artists from around the world between 2013 and 2015.” An exhibition devoted to the late US artist Mike Kelley is, meanwhile, due to open at the venue next month (“Mike Kelley: Eternity is a Long Time”, 24 May-8 September). Organised by the Los Angeles-based independent curator Emi Fontana and the in-house curator Andrea Lissoni, the show includes important works such as the 2001 installation John Glenn Memorial Detroit River Reclamation Project (Including The Local Culture Pictorial Guide, 1968-1972, Wayne/Westland Eagle). French billionaire François Pinault will loan pieces to the exhibition.
Painting owned by Hitler soars at auction
Although provenance is one of the main factors in determining the value of a work of art, there are, unfortunately, occasions when it includes a more disturbing history of ownership. Such was the case when a painting once owned by Adolf Hitler was auctioned by Wendl in Rudolstadt, central Germany, last month, selling for more than 30 times its estimate. The work, which dates from the 1930s, was created by the German Impressionist painter Karl Walther (1905-81) and depicts Naumburg Cathedral. According to Stephan Klingen of the Central Institute for Art History in Munich, Hitler bought the painting for 3,500 Reichsmarks at the “Great German Art Exhibition” in 1939. It hung in the Reich Chancellery for many years. The auction estimate was €650 but the work sold for a record €22,000 to an internet bidder based in Austria. It was described as “slightly polluted” (a reference to its condition) in the auction catalogue. According to Artnet, which has no record of this particular sale, the previous auction high for a work by Walther was $3,980, set in 1996.
Russian riches back in Britain
Downton Abbey meets the Romanovs in an exhibition of over 60 paintings and other works from Sir Robert Walpole’s collection, which was snapped up by Catherine the Great in 1779 and became the foundation of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. “Houghton Revisited” (May 17-September 29) at Houghton Hall, the Palladian mansion Walpole commissioned to house his art in Norfolk, marks the first time many of the works will return to their original walls since the debt-ridden descendants of Britain’s first prime minister scandalised the country by selling them. Catherine, as avid a collector as Walpole, paid £40,555 (more than £5m today with inflation) for the collection—including paintings by Rubens and Rembrandt, drawings and silver. The pieces now not only belong to the Hermitage, but also Moscow’s State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, and thanks to an early Soviet-era sell-off, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC who are all participating with loans. “As far as I know, this is the first attempt to recreate a collection in its original setting,” said Lord Cholmondeley, Walpole’s descendant who now owns Houghton, during a visit on Monday to the Pushkin. The Russian museum is sending four paintings, among them Rembrandt’s Old Woman Seated from the early 1650s. —Sophia Kishkovsky