Your Weekly Art News (April 30 – May 6)

Your Weekly Art News is a digest of the most important developments coming out of the art world from markets, finance, upcoming shows, exhibitions, and scandals. Here’s what you need to know this Monday, April 30th. 

  • Chinese artist Ai Weiwei takes a selfie with German far-right politician, claims ignorance, then gets lambasted by Hamid Dabashi all in the same week.  

Between Ai Weiwei and Bashar al-Assad, we wonder:

There is a bizarre kind of sanctimonious politesse about these exhibitions. But one look at the face of a Syrian refugee child, a young Iraqi widow, or a Palestinian dead body on the border of Gaza robs us of all such outdated etiquettes. We must politely stand up and publicly wonder.  

Can Syrian or Iraqi or Palestinian or Afghan or Somali refugees’ suffering be turned to art – and to what effect? Day in and day out, we are flooded with pictures, news, videos, and analysis of one calamity after another. We scroll down our newsfeed like watching Hieronymus Bosch’s hell panel from The Garden of Earthly Delight (1490-1510) – or The Harrowing of Hell, by one of his followers. What can we gather in a gallery in Doha or London or New York where we see people’s laundry cleaned, ironed and hanged?  

Artists like Ai Weiwei are products of US and European art stages – their political and aesthetics sensibilities, as a result, are aloof and abstract, rootless and available to the highest bidder.

  • Artists protest New York City’s Department of Buildings, as covered by Benjamin Sutton in Hyperallergic:

Artists and other tenants of New York City’s thousands of live-work lofts are growing increasingly frustrated with their treatment by the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB), and on Friday afternoon dozens of them took their grievances to the agency’s headquarters around the corner from City Hall. Between chants of “Oversee the DOB” and “Knock knock, who’s there, angry tenants everywhere,” the protesters called on the DOB, its Loft Board, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to make good on their claims to want to protect tenants of live-work units around the city and overhaul the city’s Loft Law, first implemented in 1982.

Loft tenants protesting outside the offices of the New York City Department of Buildings at 280 Broadway (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

  • Orientalist and Middle Eastern Art Week took place at Sotheby’s last week, which brought together three separate auctions netting a total of $15.7 million in sales, including six artists who achieved new records at auction, notably Bahman Mohasses, Egyptian Surrealist Fouad Kamel and 19th-century Bohemian painter Georg Emanuel Opiz.

Ahmed Mater. Detail of Evolution of Man. 2010. Silkscreen on paper, in five parts, with a cloth covered collector’s portfolio. 80x60cm each

  • In other Sotheby’s news this week, in a separate sale the auction house is placing a $150 million estimate on the sale of Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)” (1917), reportedly the highest-ever estimate placed on an artwork at auction.

Sotheby’s placed a $150 million estimate on the sale of Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)” (1917), reportedly the highest-ever estimate placed on an artwork at auction.

  • The legacy of American slavery is given a national memorial but is it enough? The massive lynching memorial is dedicated to the victims of racialized killing and human trafficking, as per The Guardian:

A sculpture depicting the slave trade at the entrance of the National Memorial for Peace And Justice. Photograph: Bob Miller/Getty Images

Potograph: USA Today Network/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Speaking of righting past wrongs, another memorial was unveiled last week in London’s Parliament Square, Gillian Wearing’s statue of Suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett. Fawcett is the first woman to be commemorated at the site, where she joins the company of 11 men, including Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. 

Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett, Parliament Square London (photo by Caroline Teo, courtesy Greater London Authority).

  • The Smithsonian Museum has launched a fleet of androids, leading to fears that Arnold Schwarzenegger and the T-1,000 will be launched in the coming weeks by Transmediale, as per Hyperallergic

The Smithsonian launched a fleet of four-foot-tall humanoid androids named Pepper at six of its museums. Costing $25,000 each, the robots are programmed to interact with museum visitors and encourage interest in less popular exhibits.

Pepper in front of the Smithsonian Castle (all photos courtesy Smithsonian)

Pepper saying hello to staff at the Smithsonian Castle.

  • Finally, the United Arab Emirates has offered Iraq $50.4 million in funding as part of a partnership between the two countries to rebuild the city of Mosul. The project will involve the reconstruction and restoration of landmarks such as the Al-Nouri Mosque and Al-Hadba Minaret.

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