Exhibitors at the SFV Art Bookfair in 2017 (photo by Monica Roldán, courtesy SFV Art Bookfair)
In case you hadn’t noticed, ’tis the season for art book and zine fairs in Los Angeles. Many of the fairs originally materialized as satellite fairs for Printed Matter’s Los Angeles Art Book Fair, but LAABF was cancelled earlier this year. A number of fairs were organized after the cancellation, to fill the vacuum.
Satellite fairs have become a widespread phenomenon, some feeding off the fumes of larger fairs, others aggressively attempting to “find a solution to these narrow, persistent problems of fairs.” Satellite fairs often start as intentionally scrappy events in the face of a bloated market that exhibitors, gallerists, collectors, and cultural rubberneckers can’t seem to resist.
The art book and zine fair scene seems slightly different. As Luca Antonucci of Colpa Press said at the 2016 San Francisco Art Book Fair, which he helped found, art book and zine fairs are like an education in buying art. “People who buy art books grow into people who buy art,” he said. Yet even as gateway drugs to the world of art, such fairs are less elitist and intimidating than big-time, “real” art fairs — perhaps because publishers aren’t in it for the paycheck.
The Printed Matter LAABF, with its historical attendance in the high 30 thousands, might have created its own gravity for satellite zine, book, and stuff fairs. But its cancellation led to something kind of beautiful. There seems to have been a collective freak-out among the art book and zine community — so now the satellites are coming anyway. There’s the possibility that they can co-exist without a sense of competition, spread out over the course of a few months, to make fair fatigue as rare as a fair without a booze sponsor. Here’s our list of fairs to look out for.
Flyer for the 2018 LAZAABB (courtesy LAZAABB)
Los Angeles Zine and Art Book Bazaar
This weekend is the new Los Angeles Zine and Art Book Bazaar, or LAZAAB, at MaRS Gallery, where you’ll find art books, zines, and merchandise by independent artists and musicians. But you can also have your astrological chart drawn up by “gifted psychics, card readers, and star gazers,” witness a fire performance, or hear Durk Dehner, president and co-founder of the Tom of Finland Foundation, give a talk on “toxic masculinity.” There will be plenty of celebrating in the evenings — the Friday night opening party is hosted by Pinups Magazine and Silverlake’s Akbar, and Saturday is the Bazaar’s Bizarre Bash at neighboring warehouse space, which will feature DJs, musicians, puppets, and dancing. LAZAABB touts itself as having risen from the “historical esoteric and queer communities distinctly cultivated by Los Angeles,” and they are ready to party.
Where: MaRS Gallery (649 S. Anderson Street, Los Angeles) and Creatington (653 S. Anderson Street, Los Angeles)
Exhibitor Secret Riso Press at the Independent Art Book Fair in 2017 at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse, Brooklyn, NY (photo courtesy of IABF and Melissa Saenz Gordon)
The Independent Art Book Fair
The Independent Art Book Fair has happened twice in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, during the weekends of the New York Art Book Fair. “I don’t really use the term satellite, but if the shoe fits, cool,” says founder Karen Schaupeter, who has also been an exhibitor herself at the Printed Matter New York and Los Angeles Art Book Fairs, as well as NADA in New York. “I wanted to do something different to merge Art and Books, and create a context for the new narrative in artistic practice and publishing,” she adds. The fair was founded with accessibility in mind for both exhibitors and visitors — a place where she could bring together the art and book worlds for publishers, artists, and bookmakers to channel their art to the public. This is the fair’s first year in Los Angeles.
When: Friday, April 6, 11am–7pm; Saturday, April 7, 11am–7pm; Sunday April 8, 11am–6pm
Where: 939 Studios (939 Maple Avenue, Los Angeles, California)
Organizers of the SFV Art Bookfair Jason Correa, Deserie Muoz, Lauren Lim at the Naturl Space gallery in Van Nuys in 2017 (courtesy the organizers, photo by Monica Roldn)
The SFV Art Bookfair
The SFV Art Bookfair deliberately lifts Los Angeles’s cultural nose toward the San Fernando Valley. This fair is an independent publisher and artist fair, meant to celebrate the neighborhoods north of the 101 highway, a part of the art community in greater Los Angeles that the organizers feel is unfairly overlooked. Now in its second year, the fair is soliciting independent publishers and San Fernando Valley artists (deadline March 24) to participate and will feature discussions, performance, and presentations during the one-day event in Van Nuys.
When: April 21, 12–7pm
Where: Naturál Gallery (15168 Raymer Street, Van Nuys)
Acid-Free Art Book Market (courtesy the organizers)
Acid-Free Los Angeles Art Book Market
As a quick response to the vacuum created by the cancellation of Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair, publisher and curator Jeff Khonsary and some of the original organizers of the Acid-Free Los Angeles Art Book Market asked Printed Matter whether they could help. As Khonsary puts it, they felt the need to “support this thing that had supported us as independent publishers in such a symbiotic relationship.” When the original fair proved impossible, Khonsary began planning a new fair, with Printed Matter’s blessing. The organizing committee promptly blossomed to over 20 people, all California-based independent publishers, arts organizations, and art galleries. Acid-free has expanded beyond California and will include several transnational and international exhibitors, such as Kodoji Press (Switzerland) and Triangle Books (Belgium) as well as special programming, opening parties, and after-parties.
When: Friday, May 4, 6–9pm; Saturday, 11am–6pm; Sunday, 11am–6pm
Where: Blum & Poe (2727 South La Cienega Boulevard, Culver City)
Flyer for this year’s LA Pages (Courtesy the organizers)
LA Pages announced itself as a one-time event organized by 8ball Community, a collective known for zine fairs in Brooklyn and San Francisco since 2012: Ooga Booga, and Bunny Jr. Tapes. According to Jezenia Romero of Bunny Jr. Tapes, the fair will “celebrate the west coast independent publishing and art books community in an all inclusive non-commercial way. It will be entirely run by volunteers, music and food by local Los Angeles vendors, no brand sponsorships, and drop off tables free of commissions run by us.” Like Acid-free, but from an East Coast perspective, the fair grew out of discussion between the 8ball community and Printed Matter, as well as an outpouring of support from friends of the late Shannon Michael Cane, who was integral to Printed Matter fairs. But it’s “not a fair to replace the LAABF,” as Romero states in her Instagram post about LA Pages. “Shannon was a dedicated organizer and huge supporter of the publishing community, and his devotion inspired us to keep his hard work and legacy alive.”
When: May 18–20
LA Zine Fest
Now in its seventh year, the LA Zine Fest will take place this year in Pasadena. Notably nomadic across this center-less cultural mish-mash called Los Angeles, the zines-only fest has always set itself apart from standard art book fairs, and is typically scheduled weeks away from Printed Matter’s Los Angeles fairs. Previous iterations have taken place at the Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles, the Ukrainian Cultural Center just north of Koreatown, and the Helms Bakery District in Culver City. Founded “to provide a place for zinesters and self-publishers to come together and share their creations with each other and the people of Los Angeles,” the LA Zine Fest aims to stay financially accessible to all exhibitors who fit the bill. Participants must exhibit at least 80% “zines, or other DIY, independently produced publications.”
When: Sunday, May 27, 11am–6pm
Where: The Conference Center at the Pasadena Convention Center (300 East Green Street, Pasadena)
The Stephen Foster monument in Pittsburgh (photo via Wikipedia)
The city of Pittsburgh has reached a very specific decision on what to do with a public statue that many locals call racist: remove it, and replace it with a monument to an African-American woman. The verdict, announced Wednesday, follows similar votes in other cities, from San Jose to New York City, to relocate controversial artworks on public land. The nationwide debate over historical monuments flared up after last summer’s riots in Charlottesville over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.
The statue in question depicts Stephen Foster, a Pittsburgh-born composer, alongside a Black slave who sits by his feet, playing the banjo while barefoot. By this April, it will come down from its prominent site in North Oakland, to yield its place to an African-American female leader who has left her mark on the city, as the Mayor’s office announced. The new monument will represent Pittsburgh’s first-ever statue that honors a Black woman.
‘The City of Pittsburgh believes in inclusivity and equality, and ensuring that all can see themselves in the art around them,” the Mayor’s statement reads. “It is imperative then that our public art reflect the diversity of our city and that we accordingly represent our diverse heroes.”
Selma Burke with her portrait bust of Booker T. Washington (c. 1935) (Public domain image via Wikipedia)
The city is now asking locals to help select a figure to honor and has set up a survey where people can submit suggestions. The online form also lists seven prominent figures for consideration, nominated by Pittsburgh historian Dr. Jessie B. Ramey. They include artist Selma Burke, a member of the Harlem Renaissance; abolitionist Catherine Delany; and educator Jean Hamilton Walls, who was the first African-American woman to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
The Stephen Foster statue will be moved temporarily to a private location while the city finds it a permanent home. Standing 10-feet-tall near the Carnegie Library, it was sculpted in 1900 by Giuseppe Moretti, whom The Pittsburgh Press commissioned using public funds it raised. According to Pittsburgh City Paper, a Press editor had apparently suggested the design, and imagined Foster “catching the inspiration for his melodies from the fingers of an old darkey reclining at his feet strumming negro airs upon an old banjo.” The alt-weekly reported that the sculpture has for years offended many locals for how it represents people of color, and that it was one reason why community groups did not think it appropriate for the NAACP to hold its 1997 convention in Pittsburgh.
The monument was originally unveiled in Highland Park but was moved to its original location in 1944. While local officials received numerous calls over the years to remove it, it was only last year that the city decided to launch a process to review it. Last September, the Art Commission invited the public to post their opinions on its website, before it hosted public hearings in October. Although some people say that the monument depicts Stephen Foster drawing inspiration by the banjo player, the Art Commission ultimately recommended that it be removed, relocated, and contextualized.
Wednesday’s decision from the Mayor’s office affirmed this vote. The city will now organize more community meetings to gather public input about the new statue. A special task force will use this input to help draft a proposal for the forthcoming artwork, which the city’s Public Art Commission will then review. The task force consists of members from various local organizations, including the Women and Girls Foundation and Women’s Institute at Chatham University.
“The Women in Public Art Task Force came together when it came to the City’s attention that we had very few statues dedicated to women, and none dedicated to women of color in Pittsburgh,” Lindsay A. Powell, a policy analyst in the mayor’s office told Hyperallergic. “As a Task Force, we are looking to commission a statue that honors and commemorates the contributions of African American women to Pittsburgh and celebrates their legacies.
Mayor Bill Peduto has been working with the Task Force to commission more public art that represents women of color. The new monument, whomever it honors, will be just one of many to come that celebrate the achievements of those overlooked for too long.
Starting tomorrow, visitors to The Broad museum in Los Angeles can revel in an additional opportunity for psychedelic selfies. The museum announced today that it has acquired another Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room, which means it now owns a grand total of two installations from the Japanese artist’s dazzling series of works. It goes on view tomorrow to complement the Broad’s other Infinity Room, “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” (2013), which has been on display since 2015.
Titled “Longing for Eternity” (2017), this room is technically a hexagonal-shaped box filled with mirrors and LED lights. You can’t physically enter it, as you can with “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away,” which seems to house millions of radiant fireflies. Viewers are invited to sidle up to porthole-like windows in its side and peek into the chamber to gaze at infinity contained. Though less immersive than standing at the center of such a space, the experience is no less brilliant. Perhaps you had a chance to check it out last year, when it was included in David Zwirner’s New York City, exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life.
Yayoi Kusama, installation view of “Longing for Eternity” (2017) from last year’s exhibition at David Zwirner, New York
To see it at the Broad in person will, of course, require patience, as recent displays have indicated. The Broad, which hosted an exhibition of them last fall, told Hyperallergic earlier this year that wait times for “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” vary widely, “from just a few minutes to several hours.” Reached by email, a spokesperson today said the museum does not have estimated wait times, but said to “expect that onsite standby lines will be longer than usual.”
The museum offers tips to see the works, not unlike how a zoo tells visitors when your best chance is to catch its pandas at play. The Broad recommends that you purchase an admission ticket online and select an early timeslot to reserve. You’ll then have to sign up through the iPad kiosk in the lobby to join a “first-come, first-served virtual queue” for one or both rooms. The program will then send you a text once it’s your turn. (If you don’t have a cellphone, it kind of seems like you’re out of luck. No Kusama for you! Just kidding. Ask someone for help.)
The new Infinity Mirror Room is just one of a number of major acquisitions the museum revealed today. The Broad said that it has also acquired its first work by Kerry James Marshall, an untitled painting from 2017, as well as two works by Mark Bradford. It did not share whether it has plans for when these might on view.
Katherine Westphal portrait for her 1993 exhibition at browngrotta arts (photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts)
For those who believe that deaths come in threes, the passing of Katherine Westphal this past Tuesday, confirmed by her gallery, Browngrotta Arts, must feel like fate. Already this year, we have lost Betty Woodman and Wendell Castle — two of the greatest exponents of the American craft movement. Westphal, though less well-known, was every bit as significant, a creative genius of astonishing eclecticism. Principally a fiber artist, she brought her boundless energy to many other mediums as well; her career has been aptly described, in Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf’s Makers: A History of American Studio Craft, as “a series of enthusiasms.”
Westphal was born in Los Angeles in 1919, before the city boomed, and spent much of her growing-up years on roller skates — always on the move. Though an indifferent student, she excelled at drawing, and went to the local City College to train in commercial art. She hated it: too many rules. So she transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, concentrating primarily on painting, though she also learned to weave and print textiles. After graduating in 1945, she got a job teaching in Wyoming. It was quite a shock for a city girl — “I could walk from one end of town to the other end of town in probably 15 minutes,” she recalled in 1988 — and she didn’t stay long, heading to the University of Washington after only one year.
Katherine Westphal, “The-puzzle-of-Floating-World-#2” (1976), transfer print and quilting on cotton, 85 x 68 in (photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts)
There she met Ed Rossbach, whom she would marry. The two were the great odd couple of American fiber art. The weaver Jack Lenor Larsenremembers meeting Westphal back then: “the wildest woman I’d ever met.” She wore red cowboy boots and a wig, “and her language was a little rough and she was totally unconventional, and very short and round, and Ed was very long.”
In 1950, Rossbach got a teaching job back at Berkeley, and they moved there together. Barred from teaching there due to nepotism rules, Westphal studied ceramics, and also began developing a line of textile prints. She sold these through a New York agent, Frederick Karoly of the firm Perspectives, Inc., who also handled Rossbach’s weavings. This occupied her for about eight years, but eventually Karoly decided to quit the business and returned her samples in a box. It sat in her studio for some time (she never threw anything out). In 1961 or so, she opened the box and began making patchwork out of the samples. The results were highly unconventional, less like the traditional patterns of other quiltmakers than the collage-based works of Robert Rauschenberg. It was the first time Westphal had thought of textile as her principal artistic medium, but soon enough, she found herself at the head of a whole movement of creative quilting.
Katherine Westphal, “Chuto-Haupa” (1983), paper and linen, 57 x 57 in (photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts)
Another breakthrough came in 1969. She had taken up a position teaching design at UC Davis, and one day a coin-operated Xerox machine showed up in the offices. She began to experiment with it, working through stacks of nickels. It was the perfect medium, allowing her to rapidly exploit her magpie-like instincts. Westphal deployed the copy machine as an instant form generator, combining it with other techniques, from embroidery to heat transfer. It seems fitting that such a free spirit would appropriate the technology of bureaucracy in this way. Though a hugely popular teacher, she disliked much about university art education, which produced “art that has been trained,” she said, “like you train a dog.”
Katherine Westphal, “Two Runner Pots” (1993), heat transfer photo copy collage drawing, 22 x 30 in (photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts)
In the 1970s and later, as Westphal continued to rove across media, from drawings to baskets, she became best known for her “wearable art,” a genre she essentially invented. She defined it as clothing where “there wasn’t another one like it in the world, and most people probably wouldn’t be caught dead in it.” Few who bought her garments actually wore them, instead hanging them on the wall like paintings, so she went ahead and made them seven feet tall. Iconographic inspiration came from her global travels. “Basically, I’m a tourist,” she said, “moving around the world to faraway places either by actually traveling to the spot or by using the armchair method. Then it all pops out in my work, mixed in the eggbeater of my mind.”
Now, we must say goodbye to Westphal. Her creative spin cycle is at an end. She leaves so much behind, though: the infinite variety of her work, the generations touched by her instruction and influence. For this insatiably curious woman, the whole point of life was to avoid restriction. So she didn’t necessarily leave us words to live by, apart from this: “Art is irresponsible. That is its function.”
Katherine Westphal, “Top Dog” (1991), heat transfer on tapas bark cloth, 58 x 42 in (photo by Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts)
Before Americans liked the iconic painting “American Gothic” (1930), they seemed to hate it. When Grant Wood entered the work in a competition at the Art Institute of Chicago, many viewers interpreted the painting as a disrespectful parody of small-town Americans. But within a few years, Depression-era and New Deal patriotism swept across the country, and the image became a national symbol.
Steven Biel, a cultural historian who directs the Humanities Center at Harvard University, described the painting’s unlikely journey in his book, American Gothic: A Life of America’s Most Famous Painting. Later artists made fun of its seeming sincerity; Gordon Parks famously imitated the painting, and pointed out the whiteness of its subjects, with a photograph of Ella Watson, a black woman holding a mop and broom in front of the US flag. “It’s troubling when ‘American Gothic’ stands for the authentic, true, or even average Americans,” Biel said. Still, he added, Wood’s work has more complexity than many viewers give him credit for.
Biel spoke to Hyperallergic about Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables, a retrospective currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition puts “American Gothic” in the context of earlier and later works by Wood. Some seem like sincere celebrations of the US, but others show off the painter’s sense of irony and humor.
Daniel Gross: “American Gothic” was initially received as a parody, even a critique, of small-town life. How did it evolve into an icon of Americana?
Steven Biel: From the time that “American Gothic” makes its first splash, in 1930, until at least ‘33 or ‘34, it’s universally seen as being a send-up of the kinds of people it depicts. People viewed it as deriding, disdaining, ridiculing this couple — whether father and daughter or husband and wife. One New York critic described these people as being the reactionary, puritanical, rigid types who drive artists away from the Midwest.
It isn’t just art critics who were reading it that way. A “farmwife” writing to the Des Moines Register said she was appalled at the way she felt she was being represented. They were outraged by it. That was the pervasive view.
I read Wood’s response as pretty defensive. Saying he didn’t intend it that way, that he intended it to be a realistic depiction of the kinds of people he knew in Iowa, with all their strengths and weaknesses.
By the mid-’30s, the situation in the country had changed dramatically. The sustained Depression is really what accounts for the shift in the understanding of this image. It no longer felt OK to make fun of, or express disdain for, farmers or small-town people.
DG: So when that kind of irony became less popular, the painting took on new, unironic meanings.
SB: Yes. They went from repressive rubes to noble, hard-hit people who were doing their best in whatever way to weather this crisis. It’s a somewhat crude formulation to say that the Depression completely transformed the meanings of “American Gothic,” but I think it’s true.
World War II kind of solidified that unironic understanding. Fortune magazine had an issue featuring potential war posters, even before Pearl Harbor — and one of the proposed posters was “American Gothic” with the words of Lincoln underneath it. As if these are the sort of steadfast, wholesome middle Americans who stand for the nation, and stand for the nation’s strength in the context of fighting fascism.
DG: In a way, Grant Wood’s defensive explanation of his own painting, as a realistic and sincere depiction of Iowa, won out in the end.
SB: It did. And that’s one of the things that makes him a fascinating figure. He cultivates this image of himself as a rooted, well-adjusted “Heartland” painter. What I think what the Whitney exhibition is trying to do, in large part, is to give us a more complicated Grant Wood. So that it’s not either, or. It’s not either ironic, or unironic.
The exhibition portrays Wood as a deeply ambivalent person — about Iowa, about his sexuality, about politics. And it reveals some of that ambivalence in the work.
His public story was that he went to Europe, studied in Paris, and when he came home to Iowa, he realized his true subject matter — his authentic aesthetic, or whatever you want to call it. And then he produced his best work. There’s the painting, “Return from Bohemia” (1935), where he’s looking very solidly placed among these denizens of Iowa.
But it’s increasingly clear that he was a more complicated character than the public version of himself that he helped generate. It’s also increasingly clear that Wood was gay.
DG: How successfully does the Whitney exhibition show Wood’s complexity?
SB: I think it does a good job. Among other things, it shows what a quirky guy he was. You come in, and you see these sort of craft projects he did, long before “American Gothic.” These strange assemblages he made. This corn cob chandelier. You have a sense of a guy who, at the very least, is playful and ironic. That gets you off to a good start, and I think it is conducive to look at some of the work that follows.
I went with my son, who is in his early 20s, and he found “Parson Weems’ Fable” (1939) totally creepy. There’s this miniature Gilbert Stuart version of George Washington, holding an axe. For whatever celebration of national mythologies that painting engages in, it’s also bizarre.
DG: And the exhibition sort of primes the viewer to see that in his other paintings.
SB: Yes. “Daughters of Revolution” (1932), the painting that kind of pokes fun at these elderly ladies — that’s after “American Gothic.” “Victorian Survival” (1931) is kind of this play on a tintype. It’s hard to see those things as purely affectionate.
The landscapes, they’re a little bit different. Those, even the best of them, like “Stone City, Iowa” (1930), show this bountiful, highly stylized Iowa in what became his characteristic style. Perfectly sculpted, rounded trees and rolling hills. It arguably is harder to see the irony in that.
Still, I think there’s something about “American Gothic.” It’s not simply that people projected these two diametrically opposed meanings onto the painting. There’s something in the painting that invites those interpretations.
DG: Was there something in the exhibition that showed you a new side of Grant Wood?
SB: I think the great strength of this exhibition is its comprehensiveness. It’s not a surprise to me that Wood had this quirky Arts and Crafts background that precedes his Impressionist phase. But I think for that to be the invitation into Wood’s life and work is a really compelling way of mounting this.
DG: Is there one object that captures the complexity of Grant Wood, other than “American Gothic”?
SB: I think I would say the series of illustrations for the 1936 version of Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis. Because that’s about halfway through his mature career — long after he has wholeheartedly and publicly embraced his status as an “unalienated” man of the Midwest.
The illustrations show that he hasn’t moved completely over to the side of corniness. Even though he kind of claims that he’s put all that behind him, there he is, still painting these pretty intolerant-looking Midwesterners.
DG: This exhibition will be seen in New York by many people who don’t have a connection to rural America. And it comes at a time when intolerance and racism are incredibly visible. Do you think that our historical moment changes the meaning of Wood’s work, yet again?
SB: I think it’s a good moment for a complicated or ambivalent Wood. It’s a good moment to trouble notions of the “Heartland.” It’s a good moment to embrace the critical as well as the celebratory vision of small-town life.
Jacob Lawrence, “19. Tension on the High Seas” (1956), tempera on board (image courtesy Swann Auction Galleries)
A missing painting from Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle . . . From the History of the American People series, a work effectively lost in an unknown private collection, has resurfaced after decades off the radar. The 19th panel of the series, “Tension on the High Seas,” shows a British naval officer hovering menacingly over three bound and wounded American captives, their heads hung so low that they disappear into their shoulders. A historical scene from the Chesapeake–Leopard affair (the 1807 incident that led to the War of 1812), the painting is headed for auction at Swann Auction Galleries on April 5. It’s expected to sell for between $75,000 and $100,000.
The painting’s discovery “brings to light an important missing link in our understanding of a defining, yet lesser-known series in Lawrence’s career,” Elsa Smithgall, a curator at The Phillips Collection, wrote Hyperallergic in an email. “It provides hope that the other four panels, whose whereabouts have eluded us so far, will at last emerge. This particular panel, with its striking depiction of the British impressment of American sailors, is one of several from the series that examine the history of the War of 1812. As such, it brings a fuller, richer context to the mounting drama of Lawrence’s overall visual narrative.” (Smithgall organized an exhibition of 12 works from the Struggle series at the Washington, DC museum in 2015.)
When he first came up with the idea for the series in the 1950s, Lawrence intended Struggle as a 60-work book project. “He wanted to convey the history of the entire American people,” Nigel Freeman, director of the African-American Fine Art department at Swann Auction Galleries, told Hyperallergic in a phone interview. But Lawrence ended up painting only 30 panels (covering 1776–1817), and the book project never materialized. Created in the mid-1950s, the complete series of 30 panels was displayed only twice, in 1956 and 1958. It was acquired in its entirety by a Long Island collector named William Meyers in 1959, who proceeded to sell the works off individually throughout the 1960s, Freeman said, dispersing them far and wide.
In 2000, on the publication of Lawrence’s catalogue raisonné (He remains the only African-American artist with a catalogue raisonné of his complete works, Freeman said), it was discovered that six of his panels from the Struggle series had gone missing. One, of the Boston Tea Party, has been found since, but until now, there were five works still unaccounted for. (As Smithgall noted, four panels currently remain at large.)
The Struggle series hasn’t been seen in its entirety since 1958, but the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts hopes to amend that. According to an Elizabeth Hutton Turner article published in The Magazine Antiques last year, the museum plans to organize a touring exhibition of the whole Struggle series in 2020. Maybe by then, at least one more of the missing panels will have re-emerged.
Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, a Tanzanian activist in Berlin, holding a street sign designed as a protest of German colonial actions against the Maji Maji Rebellion (photo by Tahir Della courtesy Berlin Postkolonial)
Officials from the nation of Tanzania have joined an international movement demanding the return of skeletons stolen from Africa by German colonists.
Tanzanian activists, and at least one government official, want Germany to repatriate the skull of Chief Songea Mbano, a leader who rebelled against the German colonial regime in the early 20th century.
“After hanging him, they chopped off the head and sent it to Germany,” said Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, a Tanzanian activist in Germany. Mboro grew up hearing stories about the heroism of Chief Mbano.
A photograph believed to depict Chief Songea Mbano (via Wikimedia)
Calls for the return of the chief’s remains have been spreading for years, according to the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen. An official at the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism said that, in response to many requests, he would ask Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to call on Germany to return the skull.
The exact whereabouts of Chief Mbano’s skull are not yet known, but at least four German institutions possess human remains from Tanzania, according to the advocacy organization Berlin Postkolonial. One of them, the government-funded Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK), is believed to possess the remains of about 60 individuals.
“[The museum] bears the moral responsibility to grant access to its collections to the descendants of former colonized people, as well as to offer the possibility for an apology and repatriation,” the group said in a statement. SPK did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Numerous German institutions collected human remains in the years before World War II. Many skulls were used for pseudoscientific research to support their beliefs about the inherent superiority of Europeans, which Nazi Germany used as justification for the Holocaust. The US also collected human remains in institutions including the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and others.
A 1906 photograph of warriors who were executed for their participation in the Maji Maji Rebellion (via Wikimedia)
The Maji Maji Rebellion began in 1905, after colonists in German East Africa attempted to extract forced labor from the indigenous population. Anti-colonial warriors, including Chief Songea Mbano, who lived near Mount Kilimanjaro, took up arms against the Germans. But they were met with a military offensive that not only quashed the rebellion, but also destroyed villages and fields. A resulting famine killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Mboro, the Tanzanian activist in Germany, has been trying to track down Chief Mbano’s remains for 40 years. In the 1970s, after he was awarded a scholarship to study in Germany, his grandmother gave him a mission. “She knew then: I will bring the skull back,” Mboro said. “I swore to her, I am going to do the job. I am going to bring it back.”
Mboro hopes the skull can become part of a monument to the heroism of Tanzanian freedom fighters, “so that this story can continue.” But its future will depend on the wishes of descendants. “When we find it, if we find it, then we will see to his family, and decide whether it is going to be buried.”
A scan of a German-language inventory of human remains currently in the possession of the Medizinhistorisches Museum Hamburg, of which No. 153, a skull and jaw described as “Nyassa,” is believed to originate from Tanzania (courtesy Philipp Ostmann)
Philipp Ostmann, the director of the Medizinhistorisches Museum Hamburg, told Hyperallergic that he supports the repatriation of human remains currently in Germany. He believes his institution possesses a skull from Tanzania, but says additional research is required.
“The only problem is to make sure that it really originates from Tanzania,” he said. An inventory of the museum’s human remains includes little more than measurements of the skull. Ostmann has informed the German government, which he hopes will contact the Tanzanian authorities.
Earlier this week, a deaf feline resident of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, was declared the official animal oracle of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, scheduled to take place in Russia this summer. Achilles the cat will attempt to predict the outcome of individual matches by choosing between two bowls of food, each designated with a flag of the competing nation. Achilles was apparently chosen for the task due to the accuracy of his previous predictions of winners in last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, according to artnet’s Caroline Goldstein.
Hundreds of cats have roamed the galleries of the Hermitage Museum since the 18th century, when the first group was brought in as a form of natural, fluffy pest control. Today, the Hermitage cats even have their own press secretary; other Russian museums have also started keeping cats in their employ. As for World Cup animal prognosticators, the most famous was probably Germany’s Paul the Octopus, who, strangely enough, correctly pointed out the winners of 12 out of 14 games by the end of the 2010 World Cup.
But international relations may be this cat’s Achilles’ heel, so to speak. With tensions mounting between Russia and Britain, a shadow could be cast over Achilles’ new job. British Members of Parliament are discussing whether they should encourage the England national football team to boycott the World Cup, or even push FIFA to move or postpone the whole tournament, after a Russian former spy was poisoned in Salisbury, England. Although the UK’s Labour party is still split on the issue, one Labour MP told Express, “I am very concerned that Putin will use the World Cup in the same way that Hitler used the 1936 Munich Olympics, as a public relations exercise for a brutal dictatorship.”
Guards in a gallery in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (photo by Lipton sale, via Wikimedia Commons)
Security guards at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, do not feel particularly secure in their workplace, an extensive Washington Post report revealed this week. In comments and documents gathered by arts reporter Peggy McGlone, 17 current and former guards at the NGA reported instances of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, which they say have gone unaddressed by the institution. Guards say they have no opportunity to rise within the museum hierarchy, which in turn protects inept managers and supervisors.
“They treat us like we’re bad people,” Albertus-Hugo Van den Bogaard, a 65-year-old Army veteran who started working at the NGA 16 months ago, told the Post. “People are intimidated. They will not make much noise.”
A guard and a Jackson Pollock painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (photo by Detlef Schobert/Flickr)
The guards who spoke to McGlone allege that their complaints about colleagues or supervisors are typically ignored or swept under the rug, and say they’ve been reprimanded for attempts to call the problems to the attention of executives. One guard was reprimanded by his supervisor after complaining that the same supervisor had made a scheduling error; a female guard said that, after complaining that a supervisor had used sexually inappropriate language, she was put in a training class led by that same supervisor. Another guard was told that any employee who spoke to the media could be fired.
The museum’s spokesperson, Anabeth Guthrie, told McGlone: “The gallery does not tolerate retribution against an employee for having raised concerns and has strict policies in place to prohibit retaliation.”
However, the report suggests that the allegedly suppressed complaints by museum guards reflect fundamental divisions within the National Gallery of Art. The guards fall under the umbrella of the Office of Protection Services, which accounts of about a third of the institution’s workforce. They are federal employees, but under the NGA’s unusual hybrid structure, many of the institution’s executives are not: they are paid with privately-raised funds, rather than federal appropriations. In 2016, guards earned an average salary of less than $50,000, while the museum’s top five earners made an average of $697,185. According to one guard, quoted anonymously by the Post, “there are two sets of rules — rules for them and rules for us.”
The NGA has not responded to Hyperallergic’s repeated requests for comments on the Post report.
Students from Beacon High School in Manhattan holding new posters published by Badlands Unlimited (courtesy Badlands Unlimited)
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Helen Molesworth was fired as the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles. An email sent to the museum’s trustees implied that Molesworth decided to resign, an assertion rejected by artist Catherine Opie — herself a MOCA trustee — who told the Los Angeles Times that the decision was made by director Philippe Vergne. Molesworth’s departure follows Mark Grotjahn‘s recent decision to withdraw his acceptance of the museum’s annual gala honor, citing the lack of diversity of the award’s recent honorees.
Anish Kapoor penned an open letter to the National Rifle Association (NRA) objecting to the organization’s use of “Cloud Gate” (2006) in a promotional video entitled “The Clenched Fist of Truth.” “The NRA’s ‘advertisement,'” Kapoor states, “seeks to whip up fear and hate. It plays to the basest and most primal impulses of paranoia, conflict, and violence, and uses them in an effort to create a schism to justify its most regressive attitudes.”
The Vatican admitted that its communications office doctored a photo of correspondence written by Pope Benedict XVI.
PAIN Sackler (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) held a protest at the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, calling upon the Sackler family to fund opioid rehab and education programs across the US.
Badlands Unlimited, the publishing company founded by artist Paul Chan, unveiled a new set of its New Proverbs posters for use at gun-control protests, including the upcoming March for Our Lives on March 24.
Libérons le Louvre staged a die-in in front of Théodore Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa” (1818–19) in protest over Total’s corporate sponsorship of the Louvre.
Five women accused Richard Meier of sexual harassment in a report published by the New York Times. Sotheby’s closed a solo exhibition of works by the architect at its S|2 Gallery in New York following the report’s publication.
The Metropolitan Opera fired conductor James Levine following an internal investigation into sexual abuse and harassment allegations.
Seventy-nine artists, curators, and arts workers signed an open letter in Libération objecting to the dismissal of Maria Inés Rodriguez as director of Bordeaux’s Contemporary Art Museum (CAPC).
Russia passed a new law ensuring that contemporary art (specifically art created within the last 50 years) will no longer be subject to the 30% import dues imposed on “luxury goods.” The changes will benefit collectors seeking to establish private museums in the country.
The Cleveland Museum of Art acquired Carlo Maratti’s “Portrait of Francesca Gommi Maratti” (ca 1701). Other recently announced acquisitions include works by Edward Weston, Kendell Geers, and Hervé Youmbi.
The Bronx Museum of the Arts acquired artworks by Glenn Ligon, Heidi Lau, and ASCO (Harry Gamboa Jr, Gronk, Willie F. Herrón III, and Patssi Valdez) from the NADA New York art fair.
The Crocker Art Museum will undertake a conservation of five Wayne Thiebaud paintings following a $15,000 contribution from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project.
A first edition of Luis de Lucena’s Arte de Ajedres (ca 1496–97), the earliest extant manual on modern chess, was sold at Swann Auction Galleries for a record $68,750. The same auction saw the sale of an unauthorized first edition of Sir Philip Sidney’s The Defence of Poesie (1595) for a record $149,000.
Sarah Story was appointed executive director of the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum.
Christina Yu Yu was appointed chair of Asian art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Fatoş Üstek was appointed director of the David Roberts Art Foundation.
The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art appointed Erin Jenoa Gilbert as curator of African American manuscripts and Rayna Andrews as archivist of its three-year African American Collecting Initiative.