1. Tate Modern Appoints New Director
Frances Morris has succeeded Chris Dercon to become the new director of London’s Tate Modern, the fourth yet first female and first British director in the museum’s sixteen year history.
Morris joined the Tate as a curator in 1987, with an objective to collect art “beyond the western cannon.” This goal has led Morris to pay great attention to work from international as well as female artists, recently curating the retrospectives of Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama and Agnes Martin. Upon her appointment, Morris expressed gratitude for her experience with the institution: “Tate Modern is a truly unique institution and I have been privileged to have been part of the team from the very beginning.” Critics expressed similarly enthusiastic responses to the appointment of Morris, who will, among other responsibilities, be charged with overseeing the Tate’s opening of a new, £260 million building this summer.
2. Christo to Create Largest Sculpture in the World
Christo is known for creating monumental sculptures; after surrounding Miami islands with 603,850 square meters of floating fabric and covering 60 kilometers of the Arkansas River, he is now looking to create “the largest sculpture in the world.”
Specifically, the 80-year-old artist is heading to Abu Dhabi to create a monument of 410,000 oil barrels. When finished, the desert sculpture is planned to be 150 meters tall, reminiscent of Egyptian funerary buildings. Furthermore — unlike many of the ephemeral, environmental pieces Christo created with his now deceased artistic partner and wife, Jeanne-Claude — this sculpture is set to become a permanent fixture in the Abu Dhabi desert. However, this idea is far from new, with plans for the monument dating back to 1977. While Christo often takes a lot of time to plan his pieces before executing them, only the next few years will tell if the operatic sculpture will ever be realized.
3. British Museums to Begin Charging Admission Amidst Budget Deficits
In other news from British museums this week, measures to reduce the UK’s budget deficit will cause 12% of museums in Britain to begin charging admission in the coming year.
The roughly one in ten museums will join the 8% of British museums that instituted an entry charge this past year, including the York Art Gallery and Brighton Museum. Jonathan Watkins, director of Ikon Gallery, explained to the Financial Times that, “The big philanthropists, the non-doms and hedge fund managers who make donations — they live in London, not Birmingham, Leeds or Nottingham . . . The fact remains there is a huge imbalance between the capital and the rest of the country.” However, the fate of the institutions looking to implement admission fees is better than that of 44 other British museums that have had to close since 2010 due to budget shortages
4. Ai Weiwei’s Social Media Protests Cause Lego to Reverse Its Sale Policy
Politically dissident artist Ai Weiwei was angered in October when his bulk order of Legos was denied by the Danish toy company. Weiwei, who was hoping to create portraits of political dissidents for an Australian exhibition, took to social media to voice his outrage, calling the denial an “act of censorship and discrimination.”
Lego justified its decision by indicating that it was its company policy to reject requests if they were to be used for political purposes. Weiwei’s large social media following came to the Chinese artist’s defense both attacking Lego online and with out outpouring of plastic brick donations including, most dramatically, many fans thatdumped legos into a car parked outside the Brooklyn Museum. Now, after months of criticism, Lego has reversed its company policy, announcing that it will no loner ask customers the intended purpose of bulk orders. And in doing so, spoke to both the political and commercial power that Weiwei has as one of China’s most major artistic figures.
5. Jeff Koons Teams Up With Non-Profit for Soho Mural
A forthcoming New York City hotel has joined forces with the non-profit Groundswell, which aims to involve disadvantaged youth in community-based art projects, to create a mural on one of its façades. And they’ve recruited Jeff Koons to advise the participating teenagers on the project.
Together, the teenagers and Koons will create a mural that traces the history of the hotel’s Soho neighborhood — from industrial to artistic center. Groundswell interim director Rob Krulak told artnet News: “It’s a way to send a valentine to the community. We’ve done extensive research into Soho and all the things that have gone on there and from there developed a visual language from which to tell the story.” Koons’ involvement in the project is from a primarily advisory capacity, so viewers should not expect any balloon or flower animals. However, Krulak added, “there’s a shade of blue [in the mural] that he’s very passionate about that he uses in a lot of his work, and that will be featured.” Anyone hoping to see the results of Koons’ guidance can do so once the hotel opens at 11 Howard Street.