in News | 11 JAN 19

Brazil’s Far-Right President Jair Bolsonaro Dissolves Ministry of Culture

In further news: gallery sues Christie’s over ‘bargain basement’ Francis Bacon sale; Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ heads to Japan

in News | 11 JAN 19

Jair Bolsonaro, 2019. Courtesy: Getty Images, SA, AFP; photograph: Evaristo

Brazil’s new far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has dissolved the ministry of culture, folding it together with the departments of sports and social policy into a ‘ministry of citizenship’. Osmar Terra, formerly minister of social development under Michel Temer’s presidency, will lead the newly merged ministry, while José Henrique Pires has been appointed as its culture secretary. Pires previously served as the director of the art and culture department of the Institute of Human Sciences of the Federal University of Pelotas. Speaking to Artnet News, Brazilian dealer Pedro Mendes of the São Paulo, New York, and Brussels-based gallery Mendes Wood DM said that there was little surprising in the decision to axe the ministry, given the Brazilian right’s relationship with the arts: ‘It’s very sad […] But he is doing exactly everything he claimed he would. It’s a very dark time in Brazil.’ Don’t miss Fernanda Brenner writing for us on why with the election of Bolsonaro and the rise of an emboldened extreme right in the country, Brazilian museums must become centres for promoting democratic values.

London’s National Gallery is sending Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) to Japan. The major loan of 60 works from the gallery, will tour Japan for nine months as a traveling show, ‘Masterpieces From the National Gallery’, in Tokyo and Osaka, timed with 2020’s Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. It is the largest loan the National Gallery has agreed to send abroad in its history. The National Gallery’s director Gabriele Finaldi commented: ‘In this unprecedented exhibition the gallery will share its collection and its expertise with new audiences and we hope to inspire a passion for our great paintings in new generations.’

A South Korean gallery is suing Christie’s over the ‘bargain-basement’ sale of a Francis Bacon painting. According to ArtAsiaPacific, Seoul-based One and J. gallery have filed a case against the auction house at the Supreme Court of the State of New York for allegedly selling a painting by Francis Bacon for a ‘bargain basement price’ in a private deal. In separate claims, the gallery named the co-buyers as two high-profile clients of Christie’s: New York-based gallery Van de Weghe and collector David Rogath. According to One and J.’s petition, they initially took the painting, which has not been named, to the auction house for an appraisal in 2017, with Christie’s saying that it would not be sold for less than USD$10 million. In advance of the arrangement of a private sale, Christie’s loaned USD$4.9 million to the gallery, with the painting serving as collateral. However, according to the petition, in September 2018, Christie’s wrote to One and J., claiming that the gallery had defaulted on the loan, and that the auction house was entitled to sell the Bacon painting ‘under any terms, at any time, as we see fit.’ One and J. says that its offer to buy the painting back from the buyers arranged by Christie’s was rejected by the auction house, which considered its proposed bid of USD$6.8 million too low – the gallery claims that it was nevertheless ‘significantly higher than the unknown buyer’s agreed-upon purchase price’.

The Andy Warhol Foundation is lifting its eight-year funding ban on the Smithsonian. The sanctions were first introduced after the National Portrait Gallery responded to conservative pressure and censored David Wojnarowicz’s piece A Fire in My Belly (1986-87) from its 2010 show ‘Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.’ The Catholic League and right-wing politicians said that a portion of the film in which ants climb over a crucifix, was offensive. Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs commented: ‘We believe that the ban has had its intended effect of promoting freedom of artistic expression at the national level. The Smithsonian has also demonstrated a strong track record of highlighting underrepresented artists over the past eight years, which aligns well with the foundation’s core values.’ With the ban on funding now lifted, the foundation is making a grant to the Smithsonian in the form of USD$100,000 to New York’s National Museum of the American Indian, in advance of a major Oscar Howe retrospective.

A French court has found Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky guilty of setting fire to a bank in 2017, handing down a three-year sentence with two years suspended. Because of time Pavlensky has already served in pre-trial detention, the artist-provocateur was released immediately. Pavlensky said the he was dedicating the trial to the Marquis de Sade. Granted asylum in France, Pavlensky was arrested after setting the windows of a central Bank of France building in Paris ablaze in October 2017, later calling the bank a ‘symbol of the destruction of all revolutionary initiatives, which financed the destruction of 35,000 people’. Pavlensky originally achieved international notoriety after nailing his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square in 2013.

In awards and appointments news: VIA Art Fund has revealed the list of winners of its 2018 grants, ranging in value from USD$15,000 to USD$100,000 – grantees include Amie Siegel and Tavares Strachan; Rachel Whiteread has won the Whitechapel Gallery’s 2019 Art Icon award; London’s Camden Arts Centre and South London Gallery, Firstsite in Colchester, Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes are the five galleries shortlisted for the new GBP£125,000 Ampersand Award, open to member institutions of the Plus Tate network of UK arts institutions; Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh will be co-directors of New Zealand’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre, taking up the roles in March; and New York’s High Line has named Diya Vij as its new associate curator of public programmes.