Saturday, March 26, 2016

Exhibitions | It's alive: Philippe Parreno lights up Gladstone Gallery


It's alive: Philippe Parreno lights up Gladstone Gallery

The artist's latest show includes an active bioreactor
by Dan Duray  |  24 March 2016
It's alive: Philippe Parreno lights up Gladstone Gallery
An installation view of Philippe Parreno's Gladstone Gallery exhibition If This Then Else. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery
Last year, Philippe Parreno's installation at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS, delivered on the promise of its title, drawing such crowds that visitors seemed to have wandered to the show without volition. Not far fr om there, Barbara Gladstone has now brought the French artist to her new uptown gallery with If This Then Else, a sprawling show that reaches its tentacles down to Gladstone's Chelsea space as well.

Initiates to the townhouse space will be able to identify it by the flickering lights outside. These, like other elements of the show in both locations, are tied to a complex "bioreactor" in the back room on the first floor, which, although not specially stylised, still looks like something from Dr. Frankenstein's lab. Fluctuations in a beaker that contain a microorganism modify the atmospheric condition of a gallery upstairs filled with foil balloons shaped like fish. The fish float seemingly organically in the gallery.

The bioreactor also affects elements of the show's Chelsea iteration, which climaxes in a new, 16-minute video, Li-Yan (2016). The movie renders strange various parts of New York, like Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, through expressionistic sound editing and cinematography. Perspective jumps between the first and third person omniscient—objects are always way too close or way too far—so you're always at an odd proximity to whatever is actually happening. This builds to a light show that brings to mind the alien ship in Steven Spielberg's 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Don't forget to head upstairs at Chelsea, wh ere Mont Analogue (2001) has Parreno translating René Daumal's novel of the same name into a "series of colorimetric changes," the gallery's cheeky press release says. It's a bit of a one-liner, but coming from a virtuoso, those can be quite effective.

Philippe Parreno, If This Then Else, Gladstone Gallery, New York, until 16 April

The Art Newsletter

Comment | Ten questions gallerists should be asking themselves now


Ten questions gallerists should be asking themselves now

Is gallery space still worth paying rent for or will Instagram replace it all? Art Basel director Marc Spiegler gives us the answers
by Marc Spiegler  |  01.02.2016
Ten questions gallerists should be asking themselves now
The times they are a-changin'... yesterday's collectors had more time to spend researching the art they bought, and art advisers were few and far between. Photo by Mario De Biasi/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Thinking about galleries—individually and as an art-world sector—is a constant inside Art Basel. The organisation was founded by a handful of Basel-based dealers and remains very much driven by gallerists. Those who sit on our selection committees play a pivotal role for the fairs. We also strive to stay in close contact with the 500-plus galleries around the world that do our shows, hoping to serve them by gauging their present challenges and working towards their futures.

I gave a lecture at the Talking Galleries Conference in Barcelona at the end of last year, at a starkly transitional moment within the art world, and posed ten questions that every gallerist should be considering seriously because the answers they find will define their future.

1. Are connoisseur collectors a dying breed?

Gallerists frequently complain that the people visiting their booths and galleries know much less about art than before. What happened? In part, it seems simply a symptom of how fast the art world has grown; by definition, that means a lot of new collectors. Most do not come from families with a legacy of art collecting. Just as importantly, even the most experienced and engaged collectors today tend to have far less time for art than their predecessors. As the author Chrystia Freeland wrote in her brilliant 2011 article The Rise of the New Global Elite, in the Atlantic: “In 1916, the richest 1% of Americans received only one-fifth of their income from paid work; in 2004, that figure had risen threefold to 60%.”

The super-wealthy no longer represent the leisure class, at least not as the American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen defined it. The newer art buyers at our fairs are often actively running hedge funds or start-ups; they may be super-wealthy, but they also are super-busy. However much they may be interested in art, they are rarely able to devote their Saturdays to visiting galleries. Instead, many use intermediaries to do their research; that’s why the ranks of art advisers are swelling so fast. Many of them also buy heavily at auction; it’s a quicker process and it feels more transparent to them, even if insiders know better. This deep demographic shift in wealth also explains why art fairs have grown to such importance: because they so efficiently offer the time-stressed collector an overview of an ever more global market.

All this means that gallerists will need to rethink what happens when a potential collector actually sets foot in the gallery. To be a successful gallerist 20 years from now, you must throw out the old ways of playing upon social hierarchies. Having people at the front desk who don’t smile is not going to work; nor is telling people that their collection is not good enough for your artists. They will find another way, and your artists will suffer in the process.

2. How many art fairs should I do?

My favourite moments in my job include going to a young gallery, one that has never been in our fairs (or is afraid to even apply), telling them they are ready and then seeing them get in. Working in the right way with those young galleries is crucial because they all skate constantly along a razor’s edge. One of their trickiest dilemmas involves fair strategy; as soon as they develop a good reputation, the fair directors start recruiting them, which is hard to resist, yet it diverts immense amounts of time and money from their gallery programme.

In their hearts, many young galleries know that they are doing too many fairs. But they fear—and rightly so—that if they do not participate in enough fairs, their hottest artists will jump to bigger galleries that can give them global exposure. This phenomenon actually forced us to totally rethink how Art Basel handles its three sectors for emerging artists. We used to consider artists who had shown at other fairs as being no longer “fresh”. But then we realised that the effect was that young galleries ran out of good artists with whom they could apply, so they did not get in and then they lost their artists. We tore up the regulations and started again. Now, we focus on whether the work proposed is “fresh”, rather than the name of the artist.

The surging number of new fairs compounds these dilemmas. If you have a big gallery, you have a fair team that never stops going to fairs. But if you’re a mid-sized gallery, how do you decide between all these options? Talking to gallerists, you see them growing far more strategic: doing solo booths, for example, because that involves asking only one artist for work, and those booths have a bigger impact for the artist and the gallery. Other galleries try to do all the big international fairs—Frieze, Fiac and Art Basel—but have become much more brutal when it comes to the regional fairs. The conventional wisdom said to give a fair three years to prove itself; today, if a fair does not work immediately, galleries will not hesitate to bail out.

3. Is the art world’s speed a fatal addiction?

We cannot know the answer here, because the world, and the art world, has never moved this fast. Yet it seems clear that although the goal of most successful artists used to be a MoMA retrospective at 50, many artists today focus on a career patterned on that of a football player or supermodel. Many young guns monetise their market moment, not trusting the art world to support them all the way to that MoMA show. And given the art-market history of rapid rises preceding precipitous disappearances, one can hardly fault their logic. Yet in their opportunism, these artists often destroy their own markets.

Only 20 years ago, the idea that you could auction a work less than ten years old was considered revolutionary. According to Artnet’s research, there were 3,100 works sold at auction in 2012 that had been made in the previous three years. Two years later, in 2014, that figure topped 9,800, tripling the volume of “fresh paint” hitting the auction block.

One of the most pernicious (and boring) effects of this speed was perfectly articulated by Jerry Saltz’s article “Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?” Jerry pointed to the young artists coming up with different ways of making something that is rectangular, hangs on a wall and looks like a painting. It could have been burned, exposed to sun, dragged through the streets or treated by some secret chemical process, but the point is that, in the end, it was an abstract square and it was sold at a very high price. This does not feel like a movement; it feels like merchandising. And a year after Jerry’s article came out, many of the artists he cited are already seeing their markets evaporate.

A lot of people bought those artists speculatively. But emerging art is not a great investment from a financial standpoint—because when it goes illiquid, it goes totally illiquid. There are artists whose works you simply cannot sell now. But how much sympathy can we have, really, for those who got burned while cynically speculating? Of the artists selling well today, roughly 80% will be basically unsellable in 20 years, which is perfectly fine. Because collecting contemporary art is about engaging with the zeitgeist. People should buy art that they believe in.

4. Can my gallery grow with my artists?

One classic principle for the evolution of the gallery was that you would identify and promote the best artists of your own generation. Assuming you chose the right artists and managed their careers well, the gallery would grow to fame and fortune with them. Many galleries had fairly stable rosters, working with the same artists for 15 or 20 years. This is no longer the case; successful artists often jump to established galleries after only a few shows. Oscar Murillo going to David Zwirner is the oft-cited example, but he is hardly alone. And the biggest galleries will be more open to testing young stars as the auction houses muscle ever more into the mega-galleries’ blue-chip territory.

Those “betrayals” are a huge fear for young gallerists, and many ask me what they should do. First, I tell them: “Pay. Your. Artists.” (Artists, even the hot ones, often get paid last—sad but true.) If you feel as though an artist might leave you anyway, try to keep some of their work for yourself; when that big gallery comes in and jacks up their prices, you have at least woven yourself a silver lining.

What does this mean for galleries? It means that in the long run, galleries have to build their identities not around a generation, but rather around a set of ideas. Many galleries are starting to do this, mixing generations freely. For example, the 82-year-old painter Sam Gilliam is in the programme of David Kordansky, the Los Angeles-based gallerist who first defined himself as a spotter of great young artists.

5. What does Simco mean?

The New York Times once described the Los Angeles-based collector and adviser Stefan Simchowitz as “the art world’s patron Satan”. Many people dislike him, but gallerists disregard Stefan at their peril. He has successfully “disintermediated” the traditional gallery process by regularly identifying good young artists, such as Petra Cortright, Amalia Ulman, Parker Ito and Jon Rafman, early on. Before they sign up with galleries, he starts setting up shows for them and buying enormous amounts of their material, in the same way that Charles Saatchi used to do. He goes to artists’ studios and then publicises the work by putting it on Instagram.

Stefan has been highly transparent about what he has to sell, and less difficult about whom he sells it to. That appeals to the newer buyers whom classical galleries would force to wait in line, and he has built up a collector base of people who love his renegade style. Nobody else has access to them and they buy a lot of art.

Working in this way, Simchowitz has shown the power to make markets because he is able to identify which artists will be popular, sells them well and moves much faster than most galleries do. But his ambitions go further. Last year, he launched Simco’s Club, offering services very similar to those of a traditional gallery: artist management, client representation and trading art. If you’re a gallerist, study this closely. And think about what you must do differently—both differently from what you did before and differently from what Simco does.

6. Will the auction houses leave any gallery terrain untouched?

The turf war between galleries and auction houses is not new, and to some extent, it remains focused at the highest end. In 2014, 48% of the auction volume was generated by barely 1,500 works, according to The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf) report by Clare McAndrew. Huge numbers are compiled around a small group of artists. Everyone knows that if you’re representing Christopher Wool and his work comes up for auction, you may suddenly need to find a few million pounds to make sure that it does not go unsold. Auction houses have also tried, usually quite unsuccessfully, to rival galleries by representing artists directly.

But there’s a less well known, and far more dangerous, side to this phenomenon—because today, artists whom many collectors have never heard of are being sold at auction. Tanya Leighton, a gallerist in Berlin, recounted a situation she faced with one of her hottest artists: auction houses called her to say that they had a work by him coming to auction, but also making clear that they did not know which collectors to approach. Put yourself in Leighton’s position. There is a limited amount of the artist's work and her gallery is not the only one representing him. There are also a limited number of collectors. Leighton is not getting a commission from the auction house, but if she does not rally her collectors, the work might crash. For a young artist, that’s potentially disastrous. Suddenly, Tanya is working as an unpaid de facto sales agent for the auction house!

Simon Preston, who owns an eponymous gallery on New York’s Lower East Side, had an equally unpleasant experience with one of his artists, John Gerrard. A work that should have been priced at £80,000 was put into an auction at £8,000. Collectors started freaking out, calling Simon to ask if the artist’s market had collapsed. The reality is that auction houses are not vested in the careers of young artists, but their mistakes can destroy those markets forever.

All this points to a weakness of the deliberately opaque gallery system: because only auction sales are publicised, the auction houses function as the trade’s paper of record. To some extent, the galleries are at the mercy of what goes on in the auctions, and that’s not a good thing. We have to ask ourselves: is it really such a good thing for galleries to hide their sales results so much?

7. Will the art world merge with finance?

The art world has been talking about art funds for years. Let’s be clear: most of them fail. At one point a few years back, there were 38 art funds floating out there, but in the end, it was really only the Fine Art Fund that survived. Why? Funds usually rely on advisers, and advisers are more likely to buy the most promising works for themselves, often with private backers, than for a fund.

Yet there are now two interesting art-finance developments. The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s most important private equity groups, recently announced a new initiative, Athena Art Finance, that will lend money to people who have works worth more than $500,000. Then we have Levart, founded by Carlos Rivera, the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur who previously launched the provocative Art Rank site with broker-style “buy/hold/sell” ratings for hot artists. Levart is the same concept as Athena, but at a much lower price level: it loans against art worth from $5,000. It functions like a payday loan in the US: you can have your money tomorrow! I am guessing there is another angle here. Maybe Carlos is interested in big data, and the more work he is getting offered, the better his data. If seven people are suddenly offering him work by the same artist, for example, it probably means that that artist’s market is fading.

To me, when one of the most important finance groups in the world and a Los Angeles-based internet start-up launch similar projects, it means that finance will be a bigger part of the future art world. And I am not sure that this is necessarily bad for galleries; in theory, at least, liquidity is good. Perhaps smaller galleries will use art that they own to finance new production for their more ambitious artists, rather than losing them to galleries with deeper pockets. Now, we all know that many gallerists feel that the art world they chose has eroded or even evaporated. But professions change and you have to face this reality: the more successful your artists are, the more you’re going to have to understand finance.

8. Does Instagram replace Artforum ads? Art fair booths? My gallery? Me?

Obviously, Instagram can serve as a great form of visual promotion. I am willing to bet that a big-data analysis of the format of works being created by today’s young artists would reveal many more square works than before Instagram launched. Why? Because the artists are unconsciously responding to which works get more “likes”—or even sell best—in Instagram’s square world.

So does Instagram replace an Artforum ad? Maybe, although many artists demand full-page ads in Artforum when they move to a new gallery. Does Instagram replace art fair booths? People are selling works over Instagram to the same kind of global audience that you try to reach via a fair, and they are having virtual “conversations” with those people. But they’re not the same kind of dialogues that you have in person.

Can you avoid having a gallery if you have a hyperactive Instagram account? Certainly, Stefan Simchowitz sells a lot of work without having a gallery. For a secondary-market dealer, I think it could certainly be the case; you broadcast on Instagram the work you’re trying to sell to anyone and use direct messaging for pieces you do not want to burn through over-exposure.

Does it replace the gallerist? There will surely be artists who will successfully sell their own work on Instagram. But I think most artists prefer to create art rather than spend all day direct-messaging random potential patrons. And I believe that the best way to sell art is to stand in front of the work with the collector. Fairs and galleries still work, because there is something simply primal about how you build the relationships that enable you to sell art in a market based entirely on perception.

9. Do I need to be paying rent for a gallery space?

People have been predicting the death of the gallery forever and lamenting the fact that nobody visits them any more, but major galleries are building new spaces all over the world. Many galleries on the Lower East Side in New York have already graduated to a second, much larger space. And Los Angeles has major global players arriving in force.

Why? Because of the artists, who want to work within specific spaces and not just for fair booths or iPads. Artists choose galleries to a large degree based on the spaces they can offer: the size, the architecture and the neighbourhood. I often advise galleries to change spaces every seven to ten years, because by then, their artists have already done two or three shows in the space, and it can rarely inspire them in the same way any more. So expansion and change of location have real value in terms of keeping things dynamic. If you do a lot of fairs, it is easier to take unsold work from your gallery shows to a fair than to constantly ask artists for more work destined for fair booths. To generate inventory and to keep your programme exciting, the gallery space remains a sine qua non, even if it’s hugely expensive.

10. Should I continue being a gallerist?

I can’t give you an answer but I hope you find one. My favourite book about the art world is Pizzini, by the legendary Italian gallerist Massimo Minini, featuring dozens of vignettes about the artists he did and did not work with. Read this book in your darkest moments as a gallerist; it will inspire you to live a life with great artists and collectors. Because as much as they may get a bad reputation, there are still collectors who rank among the most sophisticated, interesting, philosophical people I know; collectors like Harald Falckenberg, who has deeply studied and written about what it means to be a collector.

I think being a gallerist can still be amazing work, if you can find the collectors whose intellects are alive, buying with their eyes and not their ears. Even in China, which was dominated five years ago by the auctions and the four “Auction God” painters, there is now a new class of younger patrons. These newer entrants to the art world understand that when you buy from a gallery, you support the artist and become part of an ever-deepening dialogue. And no matter what else changes in the world and in the art world, that type of conversation, that vibrant talking, will remain the essential part of what it means to be a great gallerist.

• To watch the full version of this talk, along with a Q&A with Georgina Adam of The Art Newspaper, visit

The Art Newsletter

Comment | Sharjah discusses meaning of art in the time of Isil and Hezbollah


Sharjah discusses meaning of art in the time of Isil and Hezbollah

Anna Somers Cocks attended the annual March Meeting and found it did not shy away from the pain, extremism and corruption of the world today
by Anna Somers Cocks  |  24 March 2016
Sharjah discusses meaning of art in the time of Isil and Hezbollah
Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, head of the Sharjah Art Foundation and Dynamo of the Sharjah biennial, with her father, the emir, at the opening in 2015

“What does it mean to be talking about art when we have Daesh [Isil] and Hezbollah around us?” asked Christine Tohmé of Beirut’s Ashkal Alwan at last month’s March Meeting, posing a fundamental question not just for the art world of the Middle East.

To a packed room, this founder of a very influential community centre that runs art seminars, workshops and scholarships in Beirut went on to say: “Here we have 20 museums, 15 foundations, collections—how do we sustain ourselves in the face of money laundering when our structures are about resistance. We are not interested in doing sexy programmes, in the hype. We are not interested in the histories of contemporary art as taught by universities, the ‘white’ history. We are injecting history into how we want to write about ourselves. To say that we did educational programmes if we didn’t express ourselves politically would be meaningless, but I don’t mean political parties; rather, people who question things; communities, resistance; people who are not mobs. We nourish and are nourished by the local art community.”

This March Meeting was a radical event. The United Arab Emirates is not known for radical discussion, favouring a bland consensus in the media, but there is an exception to this in the emirate of Sharjah, under the patronage of the Sharjah Art Foundation of which the emir’s daughter, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, is president, director and moving spirit. She says: “If something is in the news, why can’t we discuss it here and talk about it directly or indirectly through works of art?” She has also committed herself to a radical biennale in 2017 with her appointment of Tohmé as its curator.

The theme of this meeting, which every year invites Curators and thinkers fr om all over Menasa and points east and west to discuss whatever theme Sheikha Hoor has chosen, was education, engagement and participation. At the same time, the foundation and art museum put on exhibitions in the courtyards and houses of the old town of Sharjah. So if you wanted total immersion in a non-Western vision of the world, this was the place to be last month.

The opening keynote address was by William Wells, the Canadian founder of Cairo’s Townhouse, an art and community centre closed down last December by the authorities on the pretext of “administrative irregularities, which are closing spaces everywhere”. “We hope to overcome these ‘irregularities’, but just before our closure we were able to get financing for a bus to take our activities to discuss, debate and perform around the country. The bus is our future, our voice, our survival at the moment. When they closed us they had no idea what they had, because the street, the artists, the life ended. It’s not just our world; it’s our neighbour’s world,” he said.

Speakers went on to tell of other spaces that the authorities found just too provocative. Ahmed Al Attar said that in January the increasingly repressive Egyptian authorities had raided the offices of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), a multidisciplinary event that has taken place in Cairo every spring since 2012 all over the city centre. The excuse was that he was “practising a profession without a permit”. “It seems that just bringing people together is a political act,” says Al Attar.

Zoe Butt of Sàn Art in Vietnam, another community project with residencies for artists and the country’s only registered facility for contemporary art, says they were also closed down recently after operating in a context wh ere there is no official support at all for contemporary art. Elizabeth Georgis of the Gebre Kristos Desta Center in the University of Addis Ababa described how Ethiopian artists are being imprisoned; there is no academic freedom; students are paid to be informers, while the corrupt government uses the word “development” as “the clarion call to squash opposition”.

A movement in the making

There were presentations of new biennales, including the already very popular event in Kochi, whose curator, Riyas Komu, said that it was particularly needed because racial intolerance was rearing its head in India. Alia Swastika of the Jogja biennale in Indonesia, whose first edition was in 2011, said that it plays on the Indonesian word “binal”, which means wild and was the name of an artistic protest movement in the 1990s: “We have chosen to work with the equatorial belt, 23 degrees above and below the equator, so last year’s partner was Nigeria.” Silvia Franceschini of the 2015 Kyiv Biennial said that they had an educational programme to develop a new language “for their political situation, for non-violent discussion and negotiation without fear”.

With the Louvre Abu Dhabi about to open, it was interesting to hear that, while there are 18 teaching institutions in the UAE with art and design programmes, only four teach fine art, while design, especially interior design, is what impresses parents. Public schools in the UAE are reducing their music and art classes from two a week to one from 2017.

Khulood Al Atiyat, manager of the increasingly active foundation set up by Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, wife of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, pointed out something that is true of Arab cultures in general: “We are too polite; we lack a critical tradition.” So they have set up group sessions to teach artists how to discuss strengths and weaknesses without taking offence.

One of the exhibitions has been particularly good in engaging the public, and it is a creation of the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist that has been touring for 23 years: the artist gives instructions on how to make a work of art, the instruction itself being a work of art. It can be followed by another artist or the public. Here the artists are all from the Middle East and thus avoid what Obrist calls “horrible homogenised globalisation”. Do it (bil arabi [in Arabic]), has had families and school children playing enthusiastically (until 23 April).

The major exhibition is the survey by the Egyptian Tarek Abou El Fetouh. The Time is Out of Joint (until 12 June), which is a complex curatorial construct part-sponsored by the Sharjah Art Foundation and commemorating the first Arab Artist Biennial in Baghdad in 1974, and the China Avant-Garde Exhibition in Beijing in 1989 and presaging the Jogja Equator Conference in 2022, through contemporary works of art, essays, databases, performances and talks. A gripping two-hour performance gave us, verbatim, the negotiations in 1955 between the defeated Malayan insurgent Chin Peng, a British colonial official and the newly elected Malayan leader Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Another, less politically gritty performance, was Wael Shawky’s third video about the Crusades seen from the Arab point of view, using glass puppets made for him in Venice by Berengo (two of these were for sale at the Dubai art fair for $65,000).

It is typical of the lateral-thinking nature of the March Meeting that one of the last but most substantial papers was by a Finnish philosopher, Taneli Kukkonen, who told us about the creation of a 12th-century Arab thinker (first published in the West in 1703, this may or may not have been the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe). Hayy ibn Yaqzan (living son of consciousness) is raised by a doe alone on a desert island and comes to his own idea of the single principle of reason behind the universe. When he is 50 he meets his first human being and they wrestle. The Arab is astonished when he discovers what Hayy has understood without benefit of revelation. Hayy tries to enter the world to teach this unitary principle of reason, but the world does not listen, so he retreats to his island. With this ambiguous, not very optimistic conclusion, the March Meeting came to an end.

Artistic censorship is on the rise, advocacy group reports

The Art Newsletter
Breaking news, top shows, the week's best stories and The Long Read selected by our editor, Jane Morris

Friday 25 March 2016 

Artistic censorship is on the rise, advocacy group reports

The top 10 countries the Freemuse registered as having serious violations of artistic freedom in 2015, including killings, abductions, attacks, threats and imprisonment
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Artistic censorship is on the rise, advocacy group reports

A study by the Copenhagen-based organisation Freemuse paints a bleak picture for global creative expression
by Dan Duray  |  24 March 2016
Attacks on artistic freedom are on the rise globally, according to a report issued by Freemuse, an independent organisation based in Copenhagen that advocates for and defends freedom of expression.

A study the group conducted, based on media reports and other sources, found that there were 469 cases of attacks on artistic expression last year, almost double the count in 2014. Most of the cases were issues of censorship (292), though the total also includes incidents of artists being detained (23), prosecuted (42), physically attacked (24), or even killed (3). Among the worst offenders last year were authoritarian governments, with China having registered 20 “serious violations”, followed by Iran (16) and Russia (15). The reasons for and types of restrictions on expression detailed in the study are multifarious—headings include “Turkey: Terror Legislation and a Thin-Skinned President” and “Egypt: Censorship Stifles Artistic Freedom”.
The top 10 countries the Freemuse registered as having serious violations of artistic freedom in 2015, including killings, abductions, attacks, threats and imprisonment
The data for the study was largely collected fr om publicly available sources, such as news media, partner organisations and independent reporters. Freemuse therefore say the “disturbing increase” in attacks on expression can be partially explained by improvements in documentation and awareness. But this also means that countries like North Korea, where there is strict state control of the media, have few reported incidents, a flaw Freemuse’s senior programme officer Magnus acknowledged in an interview. “The fact that North Korea is among the most censored and controlled countries in the world is not reflected in our statistics,” Ag says, attributing the lack of evidence “to the fact that it is extremely difficult for any human rights organisation to document and verify information about violations within this repressive regime”. The one case of censorship it registered in North Korean last year was a decree issued by the leader Kim Jong-un, demanding the destruction of tapes and CDs that could threaten the government.

The study also classified the November terrorist attacks in Paris, which resulted in the deaths of 89 people, as the single largest attack on artistic freedom. “Without speculating about the motive of the attackers, we see the horrendous attack on the Bataclan as an attack on a music venue wh ere audiences were enjoying the right to participate in cultural life,” Ag says. He adds that an aftereffect was that many people in the city “refrained from visiting museums, attending concerts and theatres in the months following the attacks”.

The murders of the artists at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are curiously not counted, however. Ag says this is because the study does not include incidents involving “journalists, non-fiction writers, bloggers and cartoonists working in the news media”, since these are monitored by organisations such as PEN International, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

One positive sign Freemuse points to is the reaffirmation of the right to creative and artistic expression by 53 member states during 18 September session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This included a statement by the Latvian ambassador Janis Karklins, who said in part: “We stand firm in our commitment to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression, including artistic and creative expression.” Although it did point out that the fight is far from over, since only 53 of the United Nation’s 193 member states supported the statement.

“Artistic creativity demands an environment free from fear and insecurity,” Ag says. “I think we should learn from journalists and make sure any artist facing hardship around the world knows that, if she is being silenced by censorship, threats or imprisonments, the international arts community will stand behind her and fight those who fear the power of creative expressions.”

• The full report, Art Under Threat, is available on Freemuse's website.

Art Basel Will Foster New Cultural Capitals —and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

Art Basel Will Foster New Cultural Capitals —and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.

01  On Wednesday, Art Basel announced a new initiative that will see the Swiss organization expand beyond its role of hosting the world’s preeminent art fairs, to work with cities around the globe to create cultural programming aimed at placing them on the international art world map.

Art Basel Has a Plan to Create New Cultural Capitals
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Patrick Foret, Art Basel’s director of business initiatives, leads the new division, and will work with a team of advisors and experts to develop a bespoke program for each of the cities that Art Basel partners with. Although Art Basel has yet to announce the initial set of Art Basel Cities, Foret said that they are in advanced discussions with several potential partners. Lest anyone be mistaken, Art Basel does not plan to expand beyond its three current shows (in Basel, Miami Beach, and Hong Kong). Each new program will be specifically tailored to the partner city; initiatives such as Art Basel in Hong Kong’s partnership with the ICC tower and Basel’s Art Parcours public art initiative give a taste of what could be in store.

02  While dealers, collectors, and institutional buyers descended on Hong Kong this week for the city’s fourth edition of Art Basel, the larger business and investment community was focused on China’s mainland.

What’s Sold at Art Basel in Hong Kong
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Growth of GDP in the country is at a 25-year low, and analysts project at least two more years of hard times for the country’s real economy. According to government economists, we have entered a “new normal,” where China’s economy will expand at a pace that better resembles that of the rest of the world, rather than the country’s explosive growth of the past two decades. For those who are deeply entrenched in the art world, this narrative may sound familiar because a similar situation is taking place in our own industry. At the Hong Kong fair, however, the changing market didn’t appear to slow sales. During the opening days dealers reported a slew of six- and seven-figure purchases, but most were waiting until the end of the fair to confirm sales on truly major works. At Sean Kelly’s stand, for example, while the gallery reported that they had “sold across the board”—placing works by Marina Abramović, Sun Xun, Los Carpinteros, and Hugo McCloud—the most significant works hadn’t yet been confirmed.

03  Sales during New York’s Asia Week—widely used to assess the state of the Asian art market—were down significantly compared to last year, according to figures from major auction houses.

(via Reuters)

Total sales at Sotheby’s were the lowest since 2013; and Christie’s brought in less than a quarter of 2015’s $161 million (although last year’s particularly strong numbers were due in part to the sale of an exceptional private collection). This reflects a trend noted in the most recent TEFAF Art Market Report, which tracked a 23% decrease in domestic art sales for China in 2015. However, it appears as though these contractions are limited in scope. Time-tested favorites such as calligraphy continued to be in demand, with gallerists noting that the slowdown simply marks the arrival of a developed market after the skyrocketing prices of recent years. And a more holistic economic analysis of Chinese consumers has projected a 10% increase in spending annually for the next five years, particularly in the realm of luxury items—indicating that perhaps the Asian art market slowdown is not here to stay.

04  A new guide for artists and cultural institutions facing legal action in Turkey is slated to be released later this year, as a growing climate of censorship grips the country.

(via The Art Newspaper and DW)

Last year marked something of a high point for Turkey’s contemporary art scene, with more than half a million visitors flocking to the city for the ambitious and well-received 14th Istanbul Biennial. Yet some say that as the government of current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has risen to power over the last decade, cases involving censored journalists, artists, and cultural institutions have been rapidly increasing. Such restrictions on speech can take many forms; anti-terror laws have been brought to bear against politically minded Kurdish artists, while building codes have allegedly been used as a cover to shutter nonprofit art spaces. Many fear the crackdown has resulted in widespread self-censorship, something the forthcoming legal guide from research platform Siyah Bant may help to alleviate. Turkey ranks near the bottom when it comes to press freedom—Reporters Without Borders placed it at 149 out of 160 in 2015.

05  Canadian arts and cultural institutions will receive a major bump in funding over the next five years thanks to the recently announced budget crafted by the Liberal government of freshman prime minister Justin Trudeau.

(via CBC News)

Funding for the the Canadian Council, which distributes money to arts and culture programs across the country, will see its budget of $182 million nearly double by the end of the five-year funding period. Next year the Council, whose CEO called the additional money a “game changer,” is due for a $40 million increase. Fulfilling a campaign promise to expand cultural funding, Trudeau has budgeted for several major museums to receive millions in direct cash infusions for maintenance and operating expenses. A program that sends Canadian artists across the world and funds events in embassies, which was canceled under the nation’s period of Conservative rule, is also due to be revitalized. Such aggressive expansions in funding stand as a stark contrast to both the relatively meager federal arts agency budgets in the United States and the government belt-tightening that is threatening museums in the United Kingdom.

06  Working in concert, Swiss and Italian police returned €9 million in artifacts stolen from Italy by a prolific British dealer who was also a major player in the world of black market antiquities.

(via The Guardian and the New York Times)

The cache of stolen goods—which included some 45 crates of items dating between 700 BC and 200 AD—was discovered in 2014 inside a storage unit at Switzerland’s Geneva Freeport. The unit had been rented by dealer Robin Symes, who worked in concert with Italian tomb raiders during the 1970s and ’80s to collect tens of thousands of artifacts from digs in Sicily, Campania, Calabria, and Puglia. The Italian culture minister said Tuesday that these items would be distributed to museums in the area from which they had been looted decades ago. This announcement comes on the heels of a series of government raids during New York’s Asia Week, when authorities uncovered a number of stolen antiquities from the trove of dealer Subhash Kapoor—a former New York gallery owner who has been linked to the theft of thousands of artifacts, mainly from India, worth $107.6 million in total.

07  UK culture minister Ed Vaizey published a white paper Wednesday announcing the government’s intention to, among other things, widen access to the arts and complete an in-depth review of British museums by summer 2017—the first time in more than 50 years that the country has released a document of this kind.

(via The Guardian)

The first, and until this week, only, white paper on the arts was written by Labour’s Jennie Lee in 1965. It’s considered a groundbreaking document in Britain, even half a century after its publication date, and Vaizey’s version will certainly draw comparisons—already, it’s been noted that while Lee increased Arts Council England’s grant by 30%, today’s white paper doesn’t explicitly funnel new money to the arts. It does suggest that regional players work together to support cultural funding in their area, addressing concerns following deep spending cuts by local authorities. Many of the proposals work to open doors for populations who are traditionally cut off from the art world, including a “cultural citizens program” to give thousands of disadvantaged schoolchildren new access to cultural spaces and an explicit requirement that all publicly funded museums, theaters, galleries, opera houses, and arts groups must “reach out to everyone, regardless of their background.”

08  The shortlist for the BMW Art Journey was announced on Wednesday during Art Basel in Hong Kong, comprised of emerging artists Abigail Reynolds, Newsha Tavakolian, and Alvin Zafra.

(via Art Basel)

Now in its third edition, the joint initiative between Art Basel and BMW debuted last year and funds a single artist to embark on a journey of their choosing, with the aims of fostering growth and enabling them to pursue new artistic endeavors. The three artists chosen were all featured in the Discoveries sector at Art Basel in Hong Kong this week, a section devoted to new work by emerging artists: the Cornwall, U.K-based Reynolds shows a large-scale sculpture that involves printing on glass with Rokeby, London; Tavakolian is a Tehran-based photojournalist who shows with Thomas Erben Gallery, New York; and the Filipino-born Zafra shows drawings comparing the National Capital Region of the Philippines and Hanover, Germany, with Artinformal, Mandaluyong City. Past winners include sound artist Samson Young and video artists Henning Fehr and Philipp Rühr.

09  Chelsea galleries Anton Kern and Andrew Kreps announced on Tuesday that they will open a temporary gallery together at San Francisco’s Minnesota Street Project on April 28, in advance of the reopening of SFMOMA.

(via the Observer)

The news comes two weeks after we learned that Gagosian Gallery and John Berggruen will open new spaces across the street from the museum. Presented under the name Anton Kern/Andrew Kreps Gallery, the collaborative exhibition, which runs through May 21, will feature 16 artists drawn from both galleries’ rosters, including Andrea Bowers, Anne Collier, Roe Ethridge, Mark Grotjahn, and Chris Martin. The show is situated among other galleries and artist studios located within the newly opened Minnesota Street Project, an endeavor begun by philanthropists Deborah and Andy Rappaport (a retired venture capitalist), which is aimed at supporting the local arts scene while appealing to the Silicon Valley community.

10  British officials have asked that a French foundation return a recently purchased ring, purportedly owned by Joan of Arc, in order to issue the historical item a proper export license—a request that the buyers have resolutely refused to honor.

(via The Art Newspaper)

The Puy du Fou Espérance Foundation, which operates a history-themed amusement park in France, paid £297,600 to U.K.-based TimeLine Auctions for the ring in late February. It was then transported from England to France without an export license, a legal requirement for all items of national importance that have resided in the U.K. for half a century or more and are valued at over £39,219 (over £65,000 for items within the European Union). This process would also give British museums the opportunity to keep the ring, assuming that one could match the price paid by the French buyers. The ring’s new owners, however, declared their intention to keep the artifact on French soil for a ceremony on Sunday at the themepark. And that’s not the only controversy surrounding the ring. According to The Economist, there are a number of experts who strongly doubt that the ring was ever owned by the Maid of Orleans. Instead, they believe it was most likely linked to her during the Joan of Arc mania that began in the 19th century. Despite its murky provenance, the relic fetched a world auction record for a medieval European ring.

—Abigail Cain, Casey Lesser, and Isaac Kaplan

Make your weekend plans with our preview of exhibitions on view in cities across the globe.

Cover image: Installation view of work by BMW Art Journey shortlisted artist Abigail Reynolds at Rokeby’s booth, Art Basel in Hong Kong, 2016. Photo courtesy of Art Basel.