The Week in Art
Saudi Arabia’s soft power grab; Julianknxx in London; Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl
A Unesco conference and archeological summit in Saudi Arabia are the latest examples of the country’s increasing focus on culture as part of the so-called Vision 2030 programme. We look at Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented and lavishly funded focus on contemporary and ancient culture and how that relates to ongoing concerns about artistic freedom and human rights abuses in the kingdom. Alia Al-Senussi, a cultural strategist, and senior advisor at Art Basel and to the Saudi Ministry of Culture, joins host Ben Luke to discuss the contemporary art scene, and Melissa Gronlund, a reporter on the Middle East for The Art Newspaper, tells us about the push to reveal hitherto underexplored Saudi heritage. The Sierra Leone-born, London-based artist and poet Julianknxx this week unveiled a new project at London’s Barbican Centre, Chorus in Rememory of Flight. The multi-screen installation features performers and choirs from the African diaspora who Julianknxx met on a 4,000-mile trip around European cities with colonial histories, from Lisbon via Marseille, Rotterdam and Berlin to London. We talk to him about this epic endeavour. And this episode’s Work of the Week is among the greatest works on paper ever made: Michelangelo’s studies in red chalk for the Libyan Sibyl, one of the most distinctive figures on his Sistine Chapel ceiling. The drawing features in Michelangelo and Beyond at the Albertina in Vienna and one of its curators, Constanze Malissa, tells us more about it.
Art in Saudi Arabia: A New Creative Economy? by Rebecca Anne Proctor, with Alia Al-Senussi, published 30 November, Lund Humphries, £19.99.
Julianknxx: Chorus in Rememory of Flight, The Curve, Barbican Centre, London, and online on WePresent, until 11 February 2024; Julianknxx is in A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography, Tate Modern, until 14 January 2024.
Michelangelo and Beyond, Albertina, Vienna, 15 September-14 January 2024.
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US museums’ financial woes, Documenta’s new crisis, Kim Lim49:57This week: The Art Newspaper’s editor, Americas, Ben Sutton discusses redundancies and ticket price-hikes at several museums across the US, and what it tells us about the economic climate for American museums in the wake of the pandemic. After a troubled 15th edition in 2022, Documenta—the influential exhibition that takes place twice a decade in Kassel, Germany—is at the centre of another controversy. The entire committee intended to appoint its artistic director has resigned following disputed allegations of antisemitism against one of the panel. Our correspondent in Germany, Catherine Hickley, tells us more about this and the wider crisis in the German art world relating to the war in Israel and Gaza. And this episode’s Work of the Week is Ronin (1963), a sculpture by the Singaporean-British artist Kim Lim. The work is part of the first survey of Lim’s work at a British gallery since 1999, at The Hepworth Wakefield. Marie-Charlotte Carrier, the curator of the show, tells us more about Lim’s life and art.To hear more about Documenta in 2022, listen to our episode from 24 June last year and our Review of the Year on 16 December 2022.Kim Lim: Space, Rhythm & Light, The Hepworth Wakefield, 25 November-2 June 2024.
New York auctions, radical Central Eastern European art, Terry Adkins x Grace Wales Bonner59:47This week: the New York auctions. Tim Schneider, The Art Newspaper’s acting art market editor, joins us to discuss two weeks of major sales in New York and whether they have calmed a jittery art market. Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s, an exhibition exploring radical art made in six countries under communist rule in Central Eastern Europe, has just opened at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, US, before travelling to Phoenix, Arizona and Vancouver. We talk to the curator in Minneapolis, Pavel Pyś. And this episode’s Work of the Week is Terry Adkins’s Last Trumpet (1995). This sculptural installation is included in the latest edition of Artist’s Choice, a regular series of shows exploring the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, selected by notable figures outside the museum. This latest iteration, Spirit Movers, has been chosen by the fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner. We talk to Michelle Kuo, a curator of painting and sculpture at the museum, who has worked with Wales Bonner on the show.Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s is at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, until 10 March 2024, it then travels to the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona, US, 17 April-29 September 2024 and then the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, 2 November 2024-23 March 2025.Artist’s Choice: Grace Wales Bonner—Spirit Movers, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 18 November-7 April 2024
Protest and performance in New York, UK National Trust row, Hans Holbein56:09This week: live art and activism. Performance art has long been used as a vehicle for protest and political activism and now, in its tenth edition, the Performa Biennial in New York has a new programme dedicated to artists exploring the subject. Protest and Performance: A Way of Life, which started as part of the 19-day festival this week, features eight events involving artists from across the world but with particular links to the Middle East, While it was programmed months ahead of the present war in Gaza, it has inevitably gained further relevance. We talk to Defne Ayas, the senior program advisor, and Kathy Noble, the senior curator at Performa, about the programme. In the UK, the National Trust, which looks after historic buildings and landscapes across Britain, has become the subject of a row between its current management and campaigners who argue that it has strayed from its essential remit. The Art Newspaper’s associate digital editor, Alexander Morrison, speaks to Martin Drury, a former director-general of the Trust, about why it has prompted such an intense debate. And this episode’s Work of the Week is Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Derich Born from 1533, a newly restored painting that features in an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in London, one of the principal venues for the UK’s Royal Collection. The show, Holbein at the Tudor Court, is curated by Kate Heard, and she tells us about the picture.Performa Biennial 2023, New York, until 19 November. Visit performa2023.org for details of events in the Protest and Performance strand.Holbein at the Tudor Court, Queen’s Gallery, London, until 14 April 2024
Can AI reveal the Herculaneum scrolls? Plus, Venice Biennale political row, Dorothea Lange58:20As global political leaders, key figures in the tech industry and academics meet at Bletchley Park in the UK for a two-day summit on artificial intelligence— discussing in particular the risks of these new technologies and how they could be mitigated—we look at a project that reflects AI’s extraordinary potential. The Vesuvius Challenge aims to use AI to unlock the texts in the papyrus scrolls that were carbonised when the Roman city of Herculaneum was covered in ash and pumice after the eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD. Brent Seales, the computer scientist behind the project, discusses the technologies involved and his optimism for a positive outcome. Then, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, director of research and honorary professor of Roman Studies at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, tells us about Herculaneum and the Villa of the Papyri where the scrolls were recovered, and considers what the papyri might contain. In modern-day Italy, the country’s culture minister has designated Pietrangelo Buttafuoco—a right-wing journalist and author whose books include a literary portrait of the notorious former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi—as the next president of the Venice Biennale. It is the latest in a series of appointments that opposition politicians describe as “chilling”. We talk to The Art Newspaper’s correspondent in Italy, James Imam. And this episode’s Work of the Week is Dorothea Lange’s photograph Maynard and Dan Dixon (1930). Philip Brookman, the curator of a new exhibition dedicated to Lange’s portraiture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, tells us more.Vesuvius Challenge, visit scrollprize.orgDorothea Lange: Seeing People, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 5 November-31 March 2024
Kyiv Biennial, sound art and migration, Jem Perucchini’s London Tube mural49:14This week: the first Kyiv Biennial since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year is taking place in various locations across the wartorn country as well as a host of neighbouring European states. We talk to the co-curator, Georg Schöllhammer, about this year’s event. As refugees and displaced people continue to dominate the news, a global sound art project, Migration Sounds, aims to explore and reimagine the sounds of human migration and settlement. We speak to Stuart Fowkes, the founder of Cities and Memory, who has conceived the project with the University of Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (Compas). And this episode’s Work of the Week is Rebirth of a Nation, a mural made for Brixton Underground Station in London by the Ethiopian-Italian artist Jem Perucchini, which is unveiled next week. Jessica Vaughan, the senior curator of Art on the Underground, tells us about the commission.The Kyiv Biennial continues to unfold into 2024, visit 2023.kyivbiennial.orgCities and Memory’s Migration Sounds project, citiesandmemory.com/migration; compas.ox.ac.ukJem Perucchini: Rebirth of a Nation, Brixton Underground Station, London, from 2 November.
Paris +, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Marie Laurencin54:29This week: it’s the second year of Paris +, the event that has taken over from Fiac as the leading French art fair. How is Art Basel’s French flagship faring amid geopolitical turmoil and economic uncertainty, and is Paris still on the rise as a cultural hub? We speak to Georgina Adam, an editor-at-large at The Art Newspaper, and Kabir Jhala, our deputy art market editor, who are in Paris, to find out. The largest ever exhibition of the work of the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto opened last week at the Hayward Gallery in London, before travelling to Beijing and Sydney next year. We talk to its co-curator Thomas Sutton. And this episode’s Work of the Week is La femme-cheval or the Horse-Woman, a painting made in 1918 by the French artist Marie Laurencin. She is the subject of a major survey, called Sapphic Paris, opening this week at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia in the US. Cindy Kang, who co-curated the exhibition, tells us more about this landmark work in Laurencin’s life.Paris +, 20-22 October.Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine, Hayward Gallery, London, until 7 January 2023; UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 23 March-23 June 2024; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia, 2 August-27 October 2024.Marie Laurencin: Sapphic Paris, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, US, 22 October-21 January.
Frieze is 20, Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir, Matisse in New York58:09The Frieze art fair has turned 20 this week, and is only growing in its ambitions, having acquired the Armory Show fair in New York and Expo Chicago. So what should we make of Frieze’s continuing expansion and what’s the mood at Frieze London and Frieze Masters this year? We talk to Tim Schneider, The Art Newspaper’s acting art market editor, who is over from New York for the fairs. In Reykjavik in Iceland, the artist-run Sequences Biennial opens on Friday. A former curator of the event is Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir, who will represent Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 2024. Tom Seymour went to the Icelandic capital to talk to her about Venice, Sequences and the Icelandic scene. And this episode’s Work of the Week is Open Window, Collioure (1905) by Henri Matisse. The painting is a highlight of the exhibition Vertigo of Colour: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. We speak to Dita Amory, co-curator of the show, about this landmark painting in Matisse’s career.Frieze London and Frieze Masters, Regent’s Park, London, until 15 October.The Sequences Biennial, entitled Can’t See, begins on 13 October and continues until 22 October 2023.Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 13 October-21 January 2024; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 25 February-27 May 2024.
The looted Ethiopian icon, AI copyright debate in US, the end of China’s museum boom50:40The looted Ethiopian icon, AI copyright debate in US, the end of China’s museum boomThis week: The Art Newspaper’s London correspondent Martin Bailey tells us about the Kwer’ata Re’esu, a European painting of Christ that became a revered icon in Ethiopia before being looted by an agent for the British Museum in the 19th century. Martin’s colour photographs of the work—which has been stored in a vault in Portugal—might help us to identify its maker and prompt new calls for the icon’s return to Ethiopia. On Monday this week, campaigners in the US staged an AI Day of Action, amid mounting concerns over the exploitation of artists’ work by corporations behind powerful artificial intelligence tools. We talk to our reporter Daniel Grant about renewed calls for the US Congress to enact a law that would ban corporations from copyrighting art made by AI. And as China’s economy struggles, some museums in the country are closing or scaling down their ambitions. We talk to our correspondent in China, Lisa Movius, about how the end of the Chinese economic miracle has hastened the end of its museum boom.
Marina Abramović, Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens01:07:10This week: three big London shows, in depth. As Marina Abramović draws huge crowds to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, we interview her about the exhibition—the first ever dedicated to a woman artist in the Royal Academy’s main galleries. At the National Gallery, meanwhile, is a remarkable survey of the paintings of the 17th-century Dutch master Frans Hals, which will tour next year to Amsterdam and Berlin. We take a tour with Bart Cornelis, curator of the National’s incarnation of the show. And this episode’s Work of the Week is Peter Paul Rubens’s Three Nymphs with a Cornucopia of around 1625 to 1628 (painted with Frans Snyders). In the collection of the Prado in Madrid, it is one of a number of major loans to the exhibition Rubens and Women at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. Amy Orrock, one of the curators of the exhibition, tells us more.Marina Abramović, Royal Academy of Arts, London, until 1 January 2024. You can hear our interview with Marina during the Covid lockdown in our episode from 8 May 2020, and a conversation with Tate Modern’s Catherine Wood about Ulay, following his death in 2020, in the episode from 6 March that year.