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Arms Manufacturer BAE Withdraws Great Exhibition of the North Sponsorship

In further news: France moves to repatriate African artefacts; salvaged segment of London housing estate Robin Hood Gardens heads to Venice

HMS Artful, 2014. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: HMS Artful

HMS Artful, 2014. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: HMS Artful

HMS Artful, 2014. Courtesy: Flickr, Creative Commons; photograph: HMS Artful

Arms producer BAE Systems has retracted its sponsorship of arts and culture festival the Great Exhibition of the North, scheduled to take place across Newcastle and Gateshead, UK, later this year. The decision followed public criticism of the exhibition accepting the arms manufacturer as a ‘premier partner’, and several acts threatening to withdraw from the event, including musician Nadine Shah. Shah commented on Twitter: ‘now that I have discovered BAE Systems are a sponsor. I am disgusted to hear of their involvement and refuse to be in any way associated with them. I encourage all artists involved to follow suit’. Meanwhile, a petition calling for the festival to refuse BAE sponsorship has reached 2,326 signatures at the time of reporting. The petition was created by campaigning group ‘Art Not Arms’, a coalition of artists and art workers calling for an end to the ‘unethical partnership with weapons maker BAE Systems’. In a statement, BAE Systems said that it was ‘supportive of the aims’ of the exhibition but that it would now ‘redirect our support to other initiatives’. A spokesperson for the Great Exhibition of the North commented: ‘We accept and respect BAE Systems’ decision. Working with all of our partners, funders, supporters and contributors, we remain focussed on delivering a successful event which will shine a spotlight on the North’s great art and culture, design and innovation.’ In a statement sent to frieze, responding to BAE’s withdrawal, researcher Stephen Pritchard, a member of Art Not Arms, commented: ‘The exhibition’s partnership with BAE Systems was not about money, it was about brand association: the artwashing of BAE’s corporate social licence to operate.’ The ending of the partnership, Pritchard said, demonstrated ‘that when artists, cultural workers and other campaigners are united in their calls to action, we can bring about significant change.’ 

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France is advancing plans to repatriate African artefacts held in French museum collections. French president Emmanuel Macron has appointed economist Felwine Sarr and art historian Bénédicte Savoy as consultants, following his comments last year in Burkina Faso in which he said: ‘African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums … In the next five years, I want the conditions to be met for the temporary or permanent restitution of African heritage to Africa.’ The appointments were announced by Macron in a join press conference with the president of Benin, Patrice Talon. Don’t miss Cody Delistraty on the fate of the ethnographic museum, with Macron poised to make changes to France’s handling of ethnographic art.

Liv Wynter has quit as the Tate’s artist in residence for education, schools and learning, saying that the gallery has failed survivors of sexual assault and failed to foster a diverse workforce. In her resignation statement, Wynter singled out comments made by director Maria Balshaw for criticism. Read our full report here.

New York’s The Shed has teased further details regarding its exhibition programme, and new construction photos and architectural renderings. The arts veneue located at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards is being developed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group – it is set to launch in 2019. Hans Ulrich Obrist is joining the outfit as senior programme advisor (while maintaining his role as artistic director at London’s Serpentine Gallery). New commissions to time with the centre’s opening include a collaboration between Steve Reich and Gerhard Richter, a live production engaging with African-American music history conceived by Steve McQueen and developed with Quincy Jones, and a reformulation of Euripides’ Helen by Anne Carson, featuring Ben Whishaw and Renée Fleming.

Meanwhile, the French newspaper Libération reports that María Inés Rodríguez has been dismissed as director of CAPC musée d‘art contemporain de Bordeaux – the curator could not respond to a request for comment due to ongoing negotiations.

Artist Matt Furie, the creator of the Pepe the Frog meme, is suing Alex Jones’s conspiracist website InfoWars for copyright infringement. Furie’s lawsuit is over a poster sold by InfoWars’s online shop which features an image of Pepe the Frog (the meme has become a prominent motif for the alt-right). Furie’s lawsuit states: ‘Furie did not authorize the use of the Pepe image or character in this poster, and does not approve of the association of Pepe with Alex Jones or any of the other figures shown in this poster, or with the ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) slogan.’

Lafayette Anticipations, the new home of Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette – occupying a 19th-century building remodelled by Rem Koolhaas and his OMA studio – opens in Paris to the public this weekend. The innovative design emphasizes the museum as flexible form, writes our deputy editor Amy Sherlock: ‘Koolhaas and OMA have come up with a typically imaginative, elegant and meticulously realized solution to a spatial problem.’

In awards and appointments: frieze columnist Olivia Laing is among this year’s recipients of Windham-Campbell literature prizes with eight writers each awarded GBP£119,000 by Yale University; the architect Balkrishna Doshi, known for his innovative approaches to low-cost housing, has become India’s first winner of the esteemed Pritzker Prize; Chicago Architecture Biennial has named Yesomi Umolu as artistic director of its 2019 edition; and Erik van Lieshout has been awarded this year’s Heineken Prize for Art, which comes with a cash prize of EUR€100,000.

In gallery news: sculptor Arlene Shechet is now represented by Pace Gallery (in the US) and Almine Rech (in Europe); artists Jean-Marie Appriou, Lucas Blalock, Shara Hughes and Magali Reus have joined Zurich’s Galerie Eva Presenhuber; and Mexico City gallery Kurimanzutto is opening a new project space in Manhattan, with an official launch in May, and an Abraham Cruzvillegas installation on view from next month.

And finally, a section of London housing estate Robin Hood Gardens is heading to this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. An eight-tonne concrete segment salvaged from demolition works will be transported by barge to the exhibition’s Arsenale site, where it will be reassembled and presented this May, allowing visitors to stand on Robin Hood Gardens’s famous elevated access deck. The housing estate was completed in 1972, designed by brutalist architects Alison and Peter Smithson. Currently mid-demolition, the estate is being replaced by 1,500 new homes.

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