in News | 17 NOV 17

Laura Owens Responds To Anti-Gentrification Protesters, Cites Death Threats

In other headlines: Trevor Bell (1930-2017); further allegations of sexual harassment in the art world; The Walker’s Olga Viso steps down

in News | 17 NOV 17

Protesters at Laura Owens’s opening at the Whitney Museum, New York. YouTube screenshot; Fair Use

Laura Owens has responded to anti-gentrification protesters after the opening of her survey show at New York’s Whitney Museum was hit by activists including members of the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement. They accused the artist and dealer Gavin Brown of being implicated in the gentrification of the LA neighbourhood, and demand that the nonprofits arts space 356 Mission Road (founded by Owens, Brown and Wendy Yao) close its doors. In an extensive blog post, the artist cites the hundreds of free events 356 Mission Rd has held as well as workshops for children and opening its facilities to the artistic community. 'The area and community surrounding 356 Mission is one about which I care deeply’ Owens writes. The artist acknowledges the serious housing crisis in LA, but says: 'We do not own the space, and we pay market rent, nor have any relationships with developers'. Owens alleges that protesters have increasingly resorted to aggressive techniques, including releasing false information anonymously on social media, bullying staff, and leaving death threats on their voicemail. Read it in full here. And you can catch up on Jonathan Griffin’s frieze dispatch from LA earlier this year, reporting on the growing anti-gentrification protests in LA’s Boyle Heights neighbourhood, and the closure of non-proft PSSST in February after activist pressure

In recent prizes: Kerstin Brätsch has won the 2017 Edvard Munch Art Award. The award comes with USD$65,000 and a solo exhibition at the Munch Museum, Oslo, as well as a residency in partnership with Munch’s studio. 'In her work different modernist myths and beliefs are evoked and transformed, as she revisits the history of abstraction from a feminist perspective’, the jury said of Brätsch’s work in a statement. Click here to read ‘The Thirteenth Fairy’, a recent conversation between Brätsch and Alexander Klüge about algorithms, fortune-tellers and stained glass, for frieze. Meanwhile Anselm Kiefer and Mario Vargas Llosa have been presented with the J. Paul Getty Medal. Since it was established 4 years ago by the J. Paul Getty Trust, the award has been devoted to significant contributions to the arts. ‘The true artist is always an iconoclast’, Kiefer said at the award dinner in New York; Mario Vargas Llosa commented: ‘Learning to read is the most important thing that has ever happened to me’.

After a controversial year for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, its executive director Olga Viso is stepping down. Viso took up the role in 2008, overseeing several key exhibitions including the 2017 survey ‘Merce Cunningham: Common Time’ and a 2015 Jack Whitten retrospective, a USD$75 million fundraising campaign, as well as the reopening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – it was the latter which has been the cause of major conflict for the museum, when protests erupted this year over one of the garden’s pieces, Sam Durant’s Scaffold (2012), whose reference to an 1862 execution of Dakota Indians was a matter of offence to local Native Americans (the piece was later dismantled and buried after a series of discussions with Dakota elders). Furthermore, within the last year, 24 staff members have left the museum (out of a staff pool of under 120), citing a difficult working environment. Departures included artistic director Fionn Meade who left the museum in January for ‘personal reasons'.

Auditors for documenta 14, which closed this year with a significant deficit, have reported that the shortfall was primarily caused by the exhibition’s second location in Athens, which caused the budget to spiral thanks to additional security, labour, transport and space costs. Independent auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers have presented a report which estimates the deficit at EUR€5.4 million for the 2017 fiscal year. However dates have been scheduled for the next edition of the quinquennial show, taking place in Kassel from 18 June to 25 September 2022, alleviating anxieties over the documenta's future.

In gallery news: Stephen Friedman Gallery in London now represents Toyin Ojih Odutola the Nigerian-born, New York-based artist, who is currently having a solo show at the Whitney (her first solo exhibition in the city). And British artist Hannah Black is now represented by Isabella Bortolozzi in Berlin – her show at Chisenhale Gallery in London runs until 10 December.

Trevor Bell. Courtesy: Waterhouse & Dodd

British abstract artist Trevor Bell has passed away at the age of 87. He was born in Leeds, and later became known as a member of the St Ives modernists – he moved there in 1955, where he began producing his vibrant, monumental canvases in the basement of the seamen’s mission. In 1958, Patrick Heron hailed him as ‘the best non-figurative painter under 30’. He later moved to take up a professorship at Florida State University in 1975. After his retirement, he returned to Cornwall. Jamie Anderson of Waterhouse & Dodd gallery recalls his 12 years of working with the artist: ‘Until the very end of his life he was producing wildly inventive work and constantly trying to escape the confines of traditional painting,’ he said: ‘He will be greatly missed by the gallery’.

Cuauhtémoc Medina has been named as chief curator of the 2018 Shanghai Biennale which is scheduled to open at the city’s Power Station of Art on 10 November 2018. The Mexican curator and historian was head curator of Manifesta 9 in Genk, Belgium in 2012, and is chief curator of the University Museum of Contenporary Art in Mexico City.

In her mission to fight mass incarceration, Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Fund has awarded USD$22 million in grants to 30 arts organizations including Mural Arts Philadelphia, Arts for Incarcerated Youth Project and Rehabilitation Through the Arts. The collector and philanthropist sold Roy Lichtenstein’s 1962 Masterpiece for USD$150 million earlier this year to help set up her fund – much of the decision to support criminal justice reform has been personal for Gund: she has several African-American grandchildren and has been concerned about the culture of police shootings of unarmed black teenagers in the US.

Further allegations of sexual harassment in the art world: artist Natalie Reis has accused the Canadian collector François Odermatt of assault. In a report by the Montreal newspaper La Presse, several women have accused Odermatt of behaviour ranging from touching without consent to rape, the latter which Reis alleges took place in 2013 in the studio of artist Marc Séguin. Odermatt says the encounter was consensual. The allegations follow the resignation of Knight Landesman as co-publisher of Artforum and the Armory Show's Benjamin Genocchio after allegations of sexual harassment. Meanwhile Coco Fusco has written on the Hyperallergic blog about her experiences with sexual harrassment  while in her 20s, predatory behaviour in art schools, and being sexually accosted by filmmaker Jean Rouch.

And finally, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (c.1500) has been sold at Christies in New York for a record USD$450 million. When the painting was sold at a London auction in 1958 (when it was not considered to be by Da Vinci) it came in at just GBP£45. The painting was formerly owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry E Rybolovlev but its new owner is unknown. Even to this day, attribution to Leonardo is not universally agreed upon, though Christie’s say the painting is authentic: ‘the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 20th Century.’ Don’t miss Cody Delistrati writing for frieze on how the staggering price begs the question: what are you really buying when you purchase an artwork?