January 27 | John Akomfrah wins Artes Mundi and gives powerful acceptance speech
New York and London both recognize politically engaged artists: John Akomfrah takes home the Artes Mundi prize and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation awards its Art and Social justice grants.
John Akomfrah awarded Artes Mundi
The 2017 Artes Mundi, the UK’s most important prize for international contemporary art, has been awarded to video artist John Akomfrah.
Held in Cardiff, the biennial award is endowed with £40,000 and recognizes artists whose work deals with social and political issues. Akomfrah’s winning piece, Auto Da Fé, looks back at humankind’s long tradition of migration, levelling a powerful critique at what the artist called the “shameful” hostility with which refugees from Africa and the Middle East have been greeted in Europe. In a sobering acceptance speech, Akomfrah emphasized the dangerous rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the UK. “We are currently experiencing the worst discussion of migration I have lived through, in the 40 years I have observed these debates,” he said. “It feels bleak, it feels intolerant and it feels frightening.” More information via The Guardian.
Hammer Museum upsizes
The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles — the city’s third largest art collection — has announced plans to expand its existing home.
The renovation project, which is set to be completed in 2020, will add 40,000 square feet of exhibition space to the museum. Michael Maltzan, who has designed spaces for the museum before, is heading up the project. The additional space will be located in the tower that adjoins the current museum building. ARTnews has more.
The museum's current building. Photo courtesy the Hammer Museum
Group tries to clean up the Geneva art world
Following the latest scandal to dog the Geneva art world — in which pillaged Syrian antiquities were seized from the city’s free-port in November — a group of art dealers, lawyers and consultants have decided to take action.
The group, who have styled themselves as the Responsible Art Market Initiative, released a list of guidelines on January 26 designed to counter illicit activity, which includes ten principles for vetting buyers and sellers of art. The collective hope that these guidelines will serve as a model for larger art markets in London and New York. At a conference on Thursday, Riccardo Sansonetti, head of financial crime at the Swiss State Secretariat for International Finance, was supportive of the effort: “It shows the will of the private sector to set out good practice, indicated a certain maturity of the sector, and third it’s very useful as a way of managing the risks.” Read the full story on Bloomberg.
Artist Saloua Raouda Choucair has passed away
Saloua Raouda Choucair, one of Lebanon's most renowned artists, has passed away aged 100. A pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East, Choucair worked with mediums as diverse as painting, drawing, architecture, textiles and sculpture and combining elements of western abrastaction with Islamic aesthetics. Born in Beirut, she left her native country for Paris in 1948, and attended the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts as well as Fernard Léger's studio. After returning to Beirut, she was one of the rare female voices in the city's male-dominated art scene and was largely responsible for bringing modernism to the Arab world. In 2013, London's Tate Modern featured a retrospective of her work. Read more about Choucair's career on the website of Agial Art Gallery & Saleh Barakat Gallery, which represents the artist.
SP-Arte announces exhibitors
The leading Latin American art fair SP-Arte has just announced the list of exhibitors for its 2017 edition, which will run from April 6-9.
Held in the historic Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, the fair presents a vibrant mix of local and emerging artists alongside internationally renowned names. In the Main sector, notable Brazilian galleries including Luisa Strina, Nara Roesler and Vermelho will rub shoulders with big-name international exhibitors: Continua, David Zwirner, Marian Goodman, kurimanzutto, Lisson, Alexander Gray, neugerriemschneider and White Cube. See the full list of exhibitors here.
Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation awards grants
The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation announced the 47 recipients of its second annual Art and Social Justice grants.
The 2017 recipients are all New York–based arts organizations whose work promotes “positive social change,” reflecting the foundation’s conviction that “art is a cornerstone of cohesive, resilient and engaged communities.” Sara Reisman, the artistic director of the foundation, said: “The work [the grantees] do to provide fundamental access to the arts in the five boroughs of New York City will be critical in the years to come, given the current political landscape.” ARTnews has more. See the full list below: