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Okwui Enwezor Departs Munich’s Haus der Kunst; Cites Health Concerns

In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize, Malcolm Morley, dies at 86

Okwui Enwezor. Courtesy: Haus der Kunst, Munich

Okwui Enwezor. Courtesy: Haus der Kunst, Munich

Okwui Enwezor. Courtesy: Haus der Kunst, Munich

Celebrated curator and critic Okwui Enwezor is leaving his position as artistic director of Haus der Kunst (HdK) in Munich, Germany. In a statement to the press, Enwezor said he was stepping down for ‘health reasons’. He commented: ‘There is never an ideal time to leave, but I am stepping down when the Haus der Kunst is in an artistic position of strength. It has been a great privilege to lead this exceptional institution and work with such a dedicated and talented team.’ HdK’s appointment of the Nigerian-born curator in 2011 – who was also documenta’s first non-European director in 2002 – at an arts institution founded by the Nazis, was regarded as deeply symbolic. But his time at the museum has not been without challenges: last year, a CEO was appointed to work alongside Enwezor to oversee the museum's budgets. Read his interview with Jörg Heiser at the beginning of his HdK tenure here.

Olafur Eliasson has completed his first building in Vejle, Denmark. Dubbed Fjordenhus, it’s an elliptical structure composed of interlocking cylinders, partially submerged in a fjord. It has been created for Kirk Kapital (a wealth fund for the Lego family). The walls are composed of 970,000 bricks, using several types of unglazed brick as well as blue, green and silver glazed brickwork. Eliasson calls the placement of bricks ‘mini-artistic compositions’. The artist said that he wanted to create an organic building ‘that would respond to the ebb and flow of the tides, to the shimmering surface of the water.’

UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece if he is elected Prime Minister. He told the Greek newspaper Ta Nea that the Parthenon sculptures, housed at the British Museum, ‘belong to Greece.’ Corbyn said: ‘As with everything stolen or removed from a country that was in the possession or colony – including objects looted from other countries in the past – we should also begin constructive talks with the Greek government on the return of the sculptures.’

Falling visitor figures have led museums in the UK to slide down the world’s top 20 most-visited museums, according to a new report carried out by the Themed Entertainment Association and the Economics practice at AECOM. Visits to those UK museums included on the list – all in London – declined by 1.15 million in 2017. The report concludes: ‘In the wake of the Brexit vote, consumer confidence decreased across the UK and is a likely culprit.’ Alongside a 4.4% drop in visits to the London museums, the report also noted an 11% increase for Asian museums. The British Museum has dropped from 6th to 8th, the National Gallery from 8th to 11th, and the Natural History Museum from 13th to 14th place.

An open letter from members of the Glendale art community to the Pit gallery in Glendale, California, accuses the artist-run space of erasing immigrant communities, and calls for a boycott. The letter criticizes ‘Vision Valley: The Glendale Biennial’, organized by Pit gallery and hosted at the Brand Art Center. Taking on the gallery’s description of the exhibition as ‘a celebration of artists working in a specific community’, the letter states that although the neighbourhood is 40% Armenian, in the exhibition’s roster of ‘32 predominately white artists, zero are Armenian.’ You can view the letter and signatories here.

‘Super-realist’ painter Malcolm Morley has died at the age of 86. His galleries, Xavier Hufkens in Brussels and Sperone Westwater in New York, confirmed the news. Morley was born in 1931. When he was just 12, his north London home was destroyed during a Nazi blitz – later paintings would include numerous references to World War II. After spending three years in prison for petty theft he went on to study at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, and later at the Royal College of Art. He moved to New York in 1958. Part of the photorealist wave in the 1960s, Morley drew on photographs ranging from images of old master paintings to family portraits, which he would then transfer to canvas using a grid system. He was the first winner of the Turner Prize in 1984. His gallery Xavier Hufkens said in a statement: ‘He defied stylistic characterisation, moving through so-called abstract, hyperrealist, neo-romantic, and neo-expressionist painterly modes, while being attentive to his own biographical experiences.’

Art historian, critic and chronicler of postwar American art Irving Sandler has passed away at the age of 92. Sandler was a cofounder in 1972 of New York nonprofit Artists Space. In 2008 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Art Criticism from the International Art Critics Association.

Head of the Royal Academy of Arts, Charles Saumarez Smith, says that British museums are ageist. Speaking at Hay Festival, the 64-year-old complained that his press team were ‘extremely anxious’ to exclude him from a documentary being filmed at the Academy, instead foregrounding younger artistic director Tim Marlow (it aired earlier this month as ‘The Private Life of the Royal Academy’ on BBC2). ‘Institutions are in danger of what I think occasionally and notice is an element of age discrimination – younger people good, older people not so good,’ he said.

In gallery news: Hauser & Wirth now represent the estate of Günther Förg, with a show planned for one of the gallery’s US outposts in spring 2019; Howard Hodgkin’s final paintings, made in India shortly before his passing in 2017, many of which have not been seen in public before, have gone on show at a new exhibition at Gagosian, London; Rodeo, London, has announced a new space in Piraeus, Athens – the gallery’s first permanent expansion into Greece will be inaugurated by a show of American painter Leidy Churchman, opening 18 June; and 303 Gallery now represents Sam Falls.

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