1. Italy Hides Nude Artworks Upon Iranian President’s Arrival
The political and the artistic collided this week in Rome, where, upon Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the city’s Capitoline Museum, nude sculptures were shielded from public view, including “Capitoline Venus.”
The move was part of a larger effort by Italian officials to ease tensions on Rouhani’s first visit since international sanctions on Iran were lifted. But the choice to censor Italy’s artwork was a controversial one, criticized by both politicians and the public, who began tweeting photos of artistic masterpieces depicting naked bodies with the hashtag “#statuenude.” Giuliano Volpe, head of Italy’s Superior Council for Cultural Heritage, told the press, “You can not hide your culture, your religion or history itself. It was the wrong decision.” Rouhani, meanwhile, thanked the Italians for being “very hospitable…[doing] all they can to put guests at ease…” However, as the two countries also signed a deal during Rouhani’s stay that could bring Italian companies up to $18 billion worth of business in Iran, the gestures may have been more than hospitality. Comparatively, France did not take any such measures when Iranian officials visited the country; nonetheless, Iran and the Louvre reached an agreement to cooperate on future archaeological expeditions and art exhibitions.
2. David Zwirner Looks to Hong Kong for Next Gallery Outpost
David Zwirner, one of the most powerful and influential art dealers in the world, is looking to capitalize on the growing Chinese and Asian art markets by opening his first eponymous gallery in Asia.
“A couple of years ago, we thought we would just come to the art fair. Now, I’m convinced we need a gallery here,” said Zwirner. The location would also be a major vote of confidence in the strength of Asia’s art market, which saw incredible growth in recent years but has come under doubt in the last few months as to its sustainability. However, the limited space available in Hong Kong may mean that it will take a while before we see a David Zwirner HK. Yet Zwirner is set on the city, compared to both the rest of China and other major Asian cities, which he sees as “secondary [art] markets”: “For now, both us and our clients find it much easier to transact in Hong Kong than in mainland China. But for us, I know we’d like the sort of space that we can find in the mainland.”
3. Agreement Reached in Custody Battle over Picasso Bust (Sort of…)
A temporary agreement has been reached in the ongoing dispute between Larry Gagosian and Qatar’s royal family — both of whom are claiming ownership of a 1931 Picasso plaster bust of his mistress.
The parties — who both claim that the bust was sold to them by the daughter of Picasso and his mistress — have agreed that the piece will go to Gagosian Gallery until the conflict of ownership is fully resolved. Gagosian filed a legal action in January against the Qatari family’s agent, Pelham Holdings, claiming that he had bought the work in May directly from Picasso’s eighty-year old daughter for $160 million. However, Pelham Holdings contests that it reached an agreement with Ms. Picasso to purchase the work in November, 2014 for $42 million. For the time being, Gagosian will be able to hold the work; however, if he wants to move it before the court action is resolved, he will need the consent of the other party first.
4. Museum of Modern Art Changes Plans for Renovations
In response to criticism on its original design, New York’s Museum of Modern Art(MoMA) and its architecture firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro have altered the institution’s planned expansion, losing many of the more lavish elements.
Doing away with a retractable glass wall, moveable floor and a new entrance to its sculpture garden, MoMA’s proposed redesign now focuses more on streamlining and improving its visitor and curator experiences. The plans still include more gallery spaces, a faster coat-check and a larger, cleaner lobby space, made room for by the MoMA Store’s relocation to below ground (from its current street level location). Currently in the fundraising stage of the expansion, MoMA plans to stay open through the three stages of construction but close for several months after its completion before reopening in 2019 2020. Upon its reopening, the museum would have increased its gallery space by 30% for a total of 174,000 square feet.
5. Ai Weiwei Closes Show in Support of Migrant, Refugee Rights
In his ongoing fight for the rights of refugees, Ai Weiwei closed his exhibition in Copenhagen this week in protest against Danish lawmakers’ approval of a bill which would delay the reunion of asylum-seeking families and allow authorities to seize valuables from migrants arriving in the country.
The exhibit, entitled Ruptures, was on scheduled to remina on display at the Faurschou Foundation until mid April. However, the foundation’s owner, Jens Faurschou,sympathized with the Chinese artist’s decision: “I support Ai Weiwei’s decision, which is all about freedom and human rights. I think it’s so very sad.” Weiwei’s protest comes after he also recreated the image of the drowned Syrian refugee toddler for Indian photographer Rohit Chawla, in an attempt to raise awareness of the migrant plight.