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Ellsworth Kelly's Final Work Opens in Austin

In further news: London’s National Portrait Gallery shuts for fashion show; and Neïl Beloufa accused of defamation by Parker Bright

Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015, interior view. Courtesy: Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Blanton Museum of Art

Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015, interior view. Courtesy: Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Blanton Museum of Art

Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015, interior view. Courtesy: Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Blanton Museum of Art

Ellsworth Kelly’s final work Austin (2015) has opened at Blanton Museum, Austin, Texas. The artist passed away in 2015, but gifted the designs for the chapel-like building to the museum months before his death. The USD$23 million Austin project has now been realized as a 252-square-metre building in white stone and stained glass. The permanent structure was launched alongside an exhibition ‘Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin’ which runs until 29 April.

A group of prominent artists, gallerists and other art world professionals is calling for Beatrix Ruf to be reinstated at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. A petition has been launched which calls Ruf ‘a tireless advocate for contemporary art’, and praises her bold vision ‘in a world so often clouded by speculation and media hyperbole’. Ruf resigned as the Stedelijk’s director last October after reports in the Dutch media regarding a potential conflict of interest between her job and her external art advisory service, as well as handling of museum donors. Read out full report here.

The artist Neïl Beloufa has removed an image of the artist Parker Bright from his current Palais de Tokyo exhibition. As part of Beloufa’s installation L’Ennemi de mon ennemi (2018) in Paris, the artist included an image of Bright from his protest of Dana Schutz’s Open Casket (2016) at last year's Whitney Biennial, wearing a shirt that read ‘Black Death Spectacle’. According to the Palais de Tokyo, Beloufa’s exhibition ‘consists of a scenographic dispositive that represents a chaotic and fragmented vision of the ways in which history is written and in which power is legitimized in the contemporary era’, drawing on a multitude of images, artefacts and reproductions. Parker Bright has launched a fundraising campaign, claiming that Beloufa did not seek permission to use the image, and is asking for support so he can travel to Paris to protest the work: ‘I believe that Beloufa is appropriating my narrative without consent. This is a form of defamation of me as an artist and arts activist’, Bright says.

Herman Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, has called for international guidelines on art restitution. Parzinger pointed to the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art (setting out a process of art restitution for families of Jewish collectors whose property was seized by the Nazis) as an important precedent. ‘Just to say it’s all stolen, let’s give everything back, is too simplistic’, he told the German daily Tagesspiegel, pointing out that issues of provenance can often be far more complex. Late last year, French president Emmanuel Macron suggested that African artefacts and artworks, held in French museums, could be returned to their original countries, sparking a debate around restitution and colonial legacies. ‘I cannot accept that a large part of cultural heritage from several African countries is in France,’ Macron said.

The Louvre is taking a major exhibition of classical artefacts to the National Museum of Iran, Tehran, next month,
the Art Newspaper reports. The Louvre commented: ‘The Louvre in Tehran is the first large-scale exhibition by a major Western museum in Iran and an outstanding cultural and diplomatic event for both countries.’ The show in Tehran tells the story of the museum, and is sponsored by Renault and Fondation Total. It signals a wider shift in French-Iranian cultural diplomacy. The Louvre opened an outpost in Abu Dhabi last November, with a building on Saadiyat Island designed by Jean Nouvel.

London’s National Portrait Gallery took the controversial decision to shut on 19 February in ordert to host a fashion show. In an uncommon move by a publicly funded institution, the gallery hosted a fashion event as part of London Fashion Week, by British designer Erdem Moralioglu. The National Portrait Gallery would normally receive 5,000 visitors on a mid-February day. The gallery defended the decision, arguing that it was a charity and hiring out gallery space provided vital income: ‘Every effort is made to ensure that this activity does not impact on public access, but sometimes due to the nature and complexity of an event some closure is necessary.’ The decision was approved by the gallery’s trustees. Incidentally, one of Erdem’s fans, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton will be selecting images and writing a foreword for a catalogue for the National Portrait Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition ‘Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography’. The member of the royal family studied art history at the University of St. Andrews, and is a patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Southampton has seen the launch of a new GBP£30 million visual art, theatre and film complex. The Studio 144 venue hosts the Nuffield Southampton Theatres, John Hansard Gallery and City Eye film organization, as part of the city’s cultural quarter. John Hansard Gallery will reopen officially on 12 May with a Gerhard Richter exhibition. ‘The opening of Studio 144 marks the moment that Southampton finally comes of age as a cultural destination’, Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England commented.

In awards and grants news: Candida Höfer has received the Oustanding Contribution to Photography award at the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards; the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation has announced recipients of its biennial grant programme, which includes Juliana Huxtable, Candice Lin and Kathy Butterfly; the Swiss art award Prix Meret Oppenheim, now in its 18th edition, has been awarded to artists Sylvie Fleury and Thomas Hirschhorn, and architect Luigi Snozzi.

And in recent appointments: Peter Gorschlüter has been named as the new director of the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany; New York’s SculptureCenter has appointed Sohrab Mohebbi as curator (succeeding Ruba Katrib, who left for MoMA PS1 last year and who is also an advisor for Frieze Focus); and the UK’s Manchester Museum has named Esme Ward as director, beginning in April (she succeeds Nick Merriman, who is leaving for London’s Horniman Museum).

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