Kurt Schwitters’s Merz Barn Could Be Heading from UK to China

In further news: Musée du quai Branly supports restitution of African artefacts; David Zwirner announces Renzo Piano-designed New York space

The Merz Barn, 2015. Courtesy: Littoral Arts Trust

The Merz Barn, 2015. Courtesy: Littoral Arts Trust

The Merz Barn, 2015. Courtesy: Littoral Arts Trust

Kurt Schwitters’s Merz Barn may be heading to China. The stone building in the UK's Lake District was the German artist’s refuge and final studio after he escaped the Nazis in 1940, and was an unfinished part of Schwitters’s Merzbau (Merz building) projects. Ian Hunter of the Littoral Arts Trust, who own the building, said that they had been forced to put the barn on the market after failing to secure Arts Council England funding – the trust also received interest from a Chinese art collector who offered to relocate the barn to his private collection in Shenzhen. 

Following on from French President Emmanuel Macron’s promise last year to return African cultural heritage, the president of the ethnographic Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, Stéphane Martin, has signalled that the institution is open to the idea, telling The Art Newspaper that ‘if together, and possibly with international co-operation with other Western partners, we can build one, two or three safe museums in Africa, I would not even consider transfers of ownership as taboo’. Martin described Macron’s pledge as an ‘awesome challenge’. Don’t miss Cody Delistraty writing in frieze on why the French President’s focus on returning African artefacts ignores deeper colonial injustices.

Artists are calling for the removal of Elisabeth Murdoch from Arts Council England’s governing body. Murdoch (the daughter of media mogul Rupert Murdoch) was formally appointed on 5 December 2017 by the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley. A letter from Artists’ Union England to the Arts Council England Chair, Sir Nicholas Serota, protested the appointment of an ‘under-qualified and non-representative’ member, and suggested a ‘significant conflict of interests’ in Murdoch’s financial contributions via her philanthropic Freelands Foundation to Tate while under the leadership of Serota. The letter stated: ‘We fear that a council member opposed to collective rights at work is a further threat to artists’ livelihoods in an already difficult set of cirumstances for artists and workers.’

In gallery news: David Zwirner has announced a US$50 million new Renzo Piano-designed space to open in New York in spring 2020, which will serve as the gallery’s headquarters (later this month David Zwirner will also open its first Asia space in Hong Kong) – ‘fortune favours the brave’ Zwirner told the New York Times; Tomoo Gokita is now represented by Blum & Poe – he will have a solo show at the Los Angeles gallery in autumn 2018; and street art dealer (and once Banksy’s agent) Steve Lazarides is opening his new gallery, Lazinc – a joint partnership with Qatari magnate Wissam Al Mana – in London’s Mayfair this week with a solo show by artist JR.

The Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art has announced details for its 10th edition running from 9 June to 9 September, titled ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’. Referencing Tina Turner’s 1985 song, the biennale confronts ‘current widespread states of collective psychosis’ and will be curated by Gabi Ngcobo.

In awards news: Wolfgang Tillmans has received the 2018 Goslar ‘Kaiser Ring’ prize; Vibeke Tandberg has been awarded Norway’s biggest art prize, the 2017 Lorck Schive Kunstpris, for her work Candypool (2017), which comes with a cash prize of US$62,000; and Rotterdam-based artist Rana Hamadeh has won the 2017 Prix de Rome, the oldest award in the Netherlands for visual artists under 40, which comes with a EUR€40,000 prize.

The influential curator Kynaston McShine has passed away at the age of 82. McShine became curator of painting and sculpture at the Jewish Museum, New York, in 1965, where he curated the pioneering minimalist art survey ‘Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors’ the following year, which included work by Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and David Annesley. He later served as acting director at the Jewish Museum and associate curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Several artists including Shepard Fairey, Molly Crabapple and Peter Kennard are among the more than 100 cultural figures who have signed a letter in support of the singer Lorde, after she cancelled a performance in Israel following criticism from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions activists – the singer’s decision was in turn later criticized by others as bigotry. The letter states: ‘We deplore the bullying tactics being used to defend injustice against Palestinians and to suppress an artist’s freedom of conscience.’ At frieze, Galit Eilat looks back at 2017 as a year of renewed debate around support for cultural boycotts.

And finally, Sunday night saw the 75th Golden Globe Awards, the first significant awards ceremony since the Harvey Weinstein revelations. It featured several speeches referencing the sexual abuse scandal, including powerful commentary from Oprah Winfrey – ‘For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men’, she said, ‘But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.’ In the latest issue of frieze, Michelle Orange asks whether acting awards should be gender neutral: it’s a small but potent opportunity for Hollywood to ‘disrupt an order so entrenched that, until now, few have thought to question it.’

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