In a hallway is a stunning new commission by Yoko Ono that updates her famous billboard, a collaboration from 1969 with her late husband John Lennon, titled â€œWAR IS OVER! (if you want it).â€ Here, a detail of the new text-based piece, titled PEACE is POWER.
After a four-month-long closure and a $450 million renovation that has been years in the making the Museum of Modern Art in New York opened to members of the press on Thursday morning, October 10.
On its second floor second floor, MoMAâ€™s is showcasing its holdings from the 1970s to today. These galleries here are slightly more compact than the ones on the higher floors, and this makes for a curatorial challenge, as museums are now trying to cram as many strands of contemporary art history into their hangs as possible. MoMAâ€™s method for retelling the history of art of the recent years isnâ€™t very different from the methods other institutions have taken, but it is nice to see the museum place a focus on women who have long been sidelined: Louise Lawler, Dara Birnbaum, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Cecilia VicuÃ±a, Senga Nengundi, Maren Hassinger, Beatriz GonzÃ¡lez, and Gretchen Bender, among others. An installation by net.art pioneers JODI and a room focusing on Chinese artistâ€™s responses to the Tiananmen Square protests are among the highlights.
[Read a review of the new MoMA.]
One of the few parts of the museum that hasnâ€™t been altered during the renovation is the sculpture garden, and it can be a treat to walk through it on a brisk October day like this one. Still on view there are the requisite sculptures that are beloved for all the right reasonsâ€”works by Matisse, Rodin, and Picasso, for example. Hereâ€™s hoping that the curators will also change out this part of the collection as frequently as they promise to do upstairs, bringing in commissions and new acquisitions of work by women and artists of color.
Below, a look around MoMAâ€™s second floor, showcasing work from the 1970s to today, and sculpture garden, in the third part of ARTnewsâ€™s photographic series devoted to MoMAâ€™s reopening. View Part 1, looking at the fifth floor, and Part 2, looking at the fourth floor.
Philippe Parrenoâ€™s Echo (Danny the Street) holds court over MoMAâ€™s reconfigured lobby. The work is among the six new ones the museum has commissioned for its reopening. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
Louise Lawlerâ€™s exceptional Does Andy Warhol Make You Cry, 1988, is among the first works visitors see when they enter the collection rehang on the second floor, in a room dedicated to the women of the Pictures Generation. This piece is one of the best examples of Lawlerâ€™s explorations of the ways in which artworks change handsâ€”it was shot while Warholâ€™s Gold Marilyn Monroe was on offer at Christieâ€™s in 1988. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
Among the oddest groupings of works is Jean-Michel Basquiatâ€™s Glenn (1985), on loan from a private collection, at left; Keith Haringâ€™s large wall wrap-around, Untitled from 1982; Scott Burtonâ€™s aluminum sculptural Perforated Metal Chairs, 1988â€“89; and Jeff Koonâ€™s 1988 Pink Panther sculpture. The addition of Koons shouldnâ€™t work, but it somehow does. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
Another superb grouping is Senga Nengundiâ€™s pantyhose-and-sand work on the back wall R.S.V.P. I (1977/2003), Maren Hassingerâ€™s Leaning (1980), in the foreground, and a selection of works by Barbara Kruger. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
In a room titled â€œPrint, Fold, Sendâ€ about art movements that manipulate various forms of circulationâ€”mail, Xerox, email, internetâ€”are two sets of six linocuts by Beatriz GonzÃ¡lez, ZÃ³calo de la comedia (Plinth of Comedy), 1983, at top, and ZÃ³calo de la tragedia (Plinth of Tragedy), 1983, at bottom. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
A detail of a group of gelatin silver prints documenting Lorraine Oâ€™Gradyâ€™s performance, Untitled (Mlle Bourgeoise Noire), 1980â€“83/2009, where the artist would show up unannounced, dressed as a pageant queen, Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (Miss Black Middle-Class) 1955, in a gown made of 180 pairs of white gloves. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
A symphony of sculptures: Ana Mendietaâ€™s 1984 Nile Born (foreground); Cady Nolandâ€™s 1989 Tanya as Bandit (left background); and Mrinalini Mukherjeeâ€™s 1984 Yakshi (right middleground). MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
Cecilia VicuÃ±aâ€™s 1978 Black Panther and Me (ii) was added to the collection only last year. A wall text provides a poignant quote from the artist, â€œFor me, painting poorly was a rebellion against the colonial standards that we, the colonized, were expected to submit to. Today we would call it a decolonizing act. Back then, we called it â€˜liberation.â€™â€ MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
In a room looking at the art from the years before and after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing are Huang Yong Pingâ€™s 1997 mixed-media sculpture Palanquin and Song Dongâ€™s 1996 Breathing, for which the artist laid down in the square in subzero temperatures for 45 minutes. During that period, Songâ€™s breath created a thin layer of ice. He then repeated the performance on the frozen surface of the Lake Houhai, an artificial body of water. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
In 1996, when Lyle Ashton Harris debuted â€œThe Watering Holeâ€ series, a grouping of photographed collages that survey the eraâ€™s most horrifying acts of violenceâ€”Jeffrey Dahmerâ€™s murders of young men of color, for oneâ€”it stirred controversy. The work entered MoMAâ€™s collection in 2013 as a gift from the broadâ€™s chair emerita, Agnes Gund. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
A subtle pairing is a sea of photographs from the 1980s and â€™90s by Wolfgang Tillmans on the back wall with Roni Hornâ€™s 1991 floor sculpture Stevensâ€™ Bouquet. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
At right is Doris Salcedoâ€™s Widowed House IV, 1994, from which visitors can spy Richard Serraâ€™s hulking Equal, 2015. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
A room is devoted to a 2002 work, My%Desktop, by net.art pioneers JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans), which shows the chaos that can unfold in our new digital lives. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
Three mediums meet in the middle in a gallery titled â€œWorlds to Comeâ€: Kara Walkerâ€™s 2017 Christâ€™s entry into Jerusalem, at left; Nairy Baghramianâ€™s 2018 Maintainers A (2018); and Trisha Donnellyâ€™s short video, Untitled (2014). MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
A black-box room shows Wu Tsangâ€™s 2017 two-channel video, We hold where study, which entered the museumâ€™s collection in 2018.MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
From left, Monika Sosnowskaâ€™s Untitled (2012), Christopher Woolâ€™s Untitled (2007), and Laura Owensâ€™s Untitled (2013). MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
Kerry James Marshallâ€™s 2015 painting Untitled (policeman) is tucked away in a hallway adjoining two galleries at the end of the second-floor rehang. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
A mix of the new and the old: Aristide Maillolâ€™s The River (1938â€“39/1945, cast 1948) lays above a small body of water in front of Katharina Fritschâ€™s Group of Figures (2006â€“08, fabricated 2010â€“11). MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
High above the sculpture garden, on MoMAâ€™s roof is Rachel Whiteheadâ€™s first public sculpture in the United States, a 1998 commission by the Public Art Fund that was originally installed about 50 blocks south of MoMA in SoHo. The translucent-resin work, Water Tower, entered the permanent collection the following year. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
David Smithâ€™s gleaming silver 1963 Cubi X, left, with Donald Juddâ€™s 1968 Untitled. MAXIMILÃANO DURÃ“N/ARTNEWS
NYU Will Remove Sackler Name from Graduate Institute, Deana Lawson Wins Hugo Boss Prize, and More: Morning Links from October 23, 2020
To receive Morning Links in your inbox every weekday, sign up for our Breakfast with ARTnews newsletter. News New York University’s Langone Medical Center will remove the Sackler name from its Graduate Biomedical Institute following years of pressure from the student body and artist Nan Goldin’s advocacy organization P.A.I.N. [Hyperallergic] Yesterday Marian Goodman Gallery announced that it would close its London location. In an interview with ARTnews, gallery…
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New York University’s Langone Medical Center will remove the Sackler name from its Graduate Biomedical Institute following years of pressure from the student body and artist Nan Goldin’s advocacy organization P.A.I.N. [Hyperallergic]
Yesterday Marian Goodman Gallery announced that it would close its London location. In an interview with ARTnews, gallery founder Marian Goodman shared what comes next for the enterprise’s British operation. [ARTnews]
Thirteen women, in interviews with The New York Times, have accused the Iranian celebrity artist, Aydin Aghdashloo, of sexual misconduct over a 30-year-period. [The New York Times]
A New York program that offers perpetrators of minor offenses the opportunity to take an art class at the Brooklyn Museum instead appearing in court, is at risk of defunding. [The Art Newspaper]
Deana Lawson is the first-ever photographer to win Guggenheim Museum’s $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize. [ARTnews]
Artists & Institutions
After a summer of social and financial turmoil, white-led arts institutions nationwide are reckoning with racism. But what does it take to achieve equity? [Los Angeles Times]
A show of work by Bruce Nauman at Sperone Westwater Gallery, featuring a new digital artwork activated by an iPad touchscreen, “confirms how sedulously he is still pushing the studio’s limits,” writes Jason Farago. [The New York Times]
Maxwell Alexandre’s first solo show in England is now on view at David Zwirner’s London gallery. Check out some of the work, which centers Rocinha, the Rio de Janeiro favela where he was raised and currently lives, here. [The Paris Review]
Sotheby’s back-to-back modern and contemporary evening sales in Paris and London generated a total of $90.4 million. [Art Market Monitor]
The Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem is facing criticism following the decision to deaccession dozens pieces of art and artifacts at Sotheby’s. [The Art Newspaper]
Artist Saul Fletcher Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide
Saul Fletcher, a British-born, Berlin-based artist known for moody images of collaged objects photographed against a plaster wall in his studio, was found dead last week in Berlin what several outlets have reported to have been a murder-suicide. The claims have been circulating in the British and European tabloids since late last week, with the…
Saul Fletcher, a British-born, Berlin-based artist known for moody images of collaged objects photographed against a plaster wall in his studio, was found dead last week in Berlin what several outlets have reported to have been a murder-suicide. The claims have been circulating in the British and European tabloids since late last week, with the tabloids linking Fletcher with actor Brad Pitt (Fletcher was photographed by paparazzi last year walking around the Venice Biennale with Pitt and sculptor Thomas Houseago).
This morning, the three galleries that represented Fletcher at the time of his death—Anton Kern Gallery in New York, Knust Kunz Gallery Editions in Munich, and Grice Bench in Los Angeles—provided to ARTnews a joint statement regarding the reports: “We are devastated, appalled, and shocked by the tragic loss of Rebeccah Blum and Saul Fletcher. We are all grief-stricken and confused. We offer our deepest condolences to their families and together are offering our support and help.”
Blum is a freelance curator who previously was director of Berlin’s Aurel Scheibler gallery. ARTnews has not been able to independently verify these deaths or the circumstances surrounding them.
According to a Daily Mail article published on July 23, Fletcher confessed to his daughter last Wednesday evening that he had killed a woman, now assumed to be Blum based on the statement of the galleries. Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, according to the Daily Mail, Fletcher’s daughter reported this information to the Berlin police, who subsequently found a woman dead from apparent stab wounds in Fletcher’s apartment. The following morning, Fletcher was found dead in the garden of property he owned near Rochowsee lake, about two hours north of Berlin.
ARTnews has reached out to Berlin law enforcement, but has been unable to verify this reporting at this time.
Fletcher, who was born in 1967 in the village of Barton, on the northeastern coast of England, and was largely self-taught, first came to prominence in the late 1990s when he began showing with New York’s Anton Kern Gallery. In a review of his exhibition at Kern in 2000, New York Times critic Roberta Smith called Fletcher’s photographs “evocative, slightly macabre, sometimes overly precious,” which “appear to be the work of a shut-in working in a nearly empty attic with the occasional cooperation of family members.”
Fletcher’s work has appeared in major international exhibitions as well, including the 30th Bienal de São Paulo in 2012, the 4th Berlin Biennale in 2006, and the 2004 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. His most recent exhibition at Anton Kern was in 2018. That same year, Inventory Press published a monograph of his work with essays by Ralph Rugoff, curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale, and critic Kirsty Bell.
Unprecedented Toppling of Monument to Slave Trader Shocks British Art World
Until his statue was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters on Sunday, few people outside Bristol had heard of Edward Colston. Dramatic images of the protests held in the British city show the bronze sculpture of Colston being torn down and thrown into the harbor of the historic port city. But the felling of the…
Until his statue was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters on Sunday, few people outside Bristol had heard of Edward Colston. Dramatic images of the protests held in the British city show the bronze sculpture of Colston being torn down and thrown into the harbor of the historic port city. But the felling of the monument to the merchant, whose fortune was earned from the transatlantic slave trade he helped establish in the late 17th century, is just one part of a fierce and reignited debate about public art honoring problematic figures that’s being waged in Britain right now.
“I’ve recorded uprisings since the 1980s, but I was slightly stunned,” said artist John Akomfrah, referring to images on social media of the Bristol demonstration, which was peaceful, like many other protests across the U.K. “There is a remarkable irony. [Colston] has ended up in the place where he put hundreds of lives”—the harbor where bodies of enslaved Africans were thrown overboard during the infamous Middle Passage.
Colston was a leading member of the Royal African Company, which had a monopoly on the slave trade in the late 17th century. “There’s no sympathy from me about his plight,” Akomfrah said.
The merchant’s statue, which was unveiled in 1895 when the British Empire was at the peak of its power, has long been a source of division in the city. Attempts to add a contextual plaque referring to the philanthropist’s role in the slave trade had reached a political and bureaucratic impass, prompting demonstrators to take matters in their own hands last weekend.
“I was amazed. It was the kind of thing I never thought I’d see in my lifetime,” said Hew Locke, a London-based sculptor who lived in Bristol in the 1980s. “This piece has been on my mind as a problem for years,” he told ARTnews. “Colston wasn’t a bad man. The language was wrong. He was an evil man. That’s the truth of it.”
John Cassidy’s sculpture has been derided as a poor work of art, but Locke disagrees with that assessment. “Aesthetically, it was one of Bristol’s best Victorian sculptures,” Locke said. In 2006, to pay homage to the sculpture’s history, Locke bedecked a large-scale photograph of the Colston monument with the trappings of his wealth based on the exploitation of Africans.
It’s unclear right now what will happen to the statute. Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, said on Monday that Cassidy’s sculpture will be “fished out” at some point but vowed that it will never return to its former prominent location. The bronze could be destined for the city’s history museum, MShed, which overlooks Bristol harbor, along with a collection of the Black Lives Matter protestors’ placards.
The fate of Colston’s statue and the Black Lives Matter movement raises awkward questions for other cities in the U.K. On Tuesday, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a review of all London statues with slavery links. One London’s former docklands now business district of Robert Milligan, a prominent slave trader and plantation owner, has been vandalized and covered in protest placards. On Tuesday, it was revealed that the statue would be removed. And there have been renewed calls to remove or at least recontextualize colonial-era statues, including ones in Cardiff in Wales, Dundee in Scotland, and in Oxford. Since 2016, campaigners have tried to banish the statue of the arch-imperialist of the Victorian era, Cecil Rhodes, at the University of Oxford. (A demonstration is taking place on Tuesday.)
Locke expressed skepticism over whether anything would change. “We will see,” he said. Meanwhile, authorities in Belgium have begun to remove statues of King Leopold II after protests. His colonization of what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo involved systematic brutality and atrocities.
Some institutions have begun taking accountability for their role in structural racism, but their responses have done little to satisfy critics. Several big London museums, following their peers in the U.S., issued statements of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests at the end of last week and over the weekend. The British Museum immediately faced accusations of inaction over decolonizing its collection, which includes colonial-era looted art and human remains. The National Gallery in London also posted on social media its rejection of “racism, inequality and violence” in response to the death of George Floyd while being arrested by police. Anti-racist protestors began gathering in Trafalgar Square a week ago on the art museum’s doorstep despite an ongoing national lockdown due to coronavirus.
For nearly 100 years a bronze statue of George Washington has stood on the gallery’s front lawn, making it one of many public London monuments to “dodgy figures,” as Locke has put it. Presented by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1924, it is a replica of the marble sculpture by the French 18th-century sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon that stands in the State Capitol building in Richmond. There is no mention on a plaque (or on the National Gallery’s website) that Washington was a slave owner, or that Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States in the U.S. Civil War.
When reached by ARTnews about whether it planned to make that history available, a National Gallery spokesperson claimed it was not the museum’s responsibility to do so, but rather the U.K. government’s. The museum is “looking” to update its website about the biography of its founding collector, John Julius Angerstein, however. Its current page about Angerstein glosses over the uncomfortable truth that much of the art collector’s wealth was based on insurance of ships used in the slave trade. He also had a financial stake in a slave plantation in the Caribbean.
Such a clarification of institutions’ history is becoming more common in the U.K.—Tate, for example, issued a lengthy statement about its founder’s role in the slave trade last year. Locke said that context such as this is necessary for institutions—and, in particular, the monuments in the cities around them. “The sculptures are part of history, but you need some acknowledgement of who these people were,” he said. “You can’t say police brutality is terrible, institutional racism is terrible, and then you don’t want anything to change in your local landscape.”
Locke, like Akomfrah, seemed resigned that the debate about the relocation of colonial-era monuments in the U.K. will now be framed by the government as a question of law and order after Colston’s violent removal. The U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson was quick to condemn the Bristol protestors’ actions claiming that the Black Lives Matters protests have been “subverted by thuggery.” After coming under fire, he toned down his rhetoric but insisted that anyone who harmed property would face “the full force of the law.”
Many in the British art scene—and beyond—are now left with serious quandaries going forward. “Let’s be clear, [Colston] was a mass murder,” Akomfrah said. “He benefited from the misfortune of others. The real question is, why was that statue put up in the first place?”