BY Sonja-Maria Borstner in News | 09 OCT 20

Why Did Witte de With Change Its Name?

Plus: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung wins Berlin’s Order of Merit and other art news from Europe

BY Sonja-Maria Borstner in News | 09 OCT 20

Ken Lum, Melly Shum Hates Her Job, 1989/2018, billboard. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich 

In 2017, a group of culture-sector workers wrote an open letter to Rotterdam’s Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art requesting that the institution – named after a 17th-century Dutch naval officer involved in colonial expeditions and the slave trade – be retitled. The arts centre has subsequently announced that, from 2021, it will be known as Kunstinstituut Melly, in reference to Ken Lum’s billboard Melly Shum Hates Her Job (1989/2018), which is permanently installed on the building’s facade. In a recent press release, director Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy stated: ‘The institution’s renaming responds to the claims raised by the larger decolonial movement in such a way that the new name, even by evocation, cannot disregard this moment.’

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung. Photograph: Raisa Galofre

On 1 October, curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung was honoured with the Order of Merit of Berlin in recognition of his exceptional commitment to the city. Alongside his work as a curator-at-large of documenta 14, Cameroon-born Ndikung founded the art centre SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin in 2010. Since then, the space has been an essential platform for projects that examine Germany’s colonial history and work from African and Global South diasporas. After a hectic year for the institution – which involved a post-lockdown move to a new location in Wedding and the opening of the new space’s inaugural show, ‘RAUPENIMMERSATTISM’ – Ndikung said of his nomination: ‘This is recognition of the work SAVVY Contemporary has been doing over the past decade. […] It is important to say that there is still very much to be done.’

Ulrike Müller, Rug (estamos en contact), 2019, sheep wool, 2.5 × 3 m. Courtesy: the artist, Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna, Rodeo, London, and Callicoon Fine Arts, New York; photograph: Marcel Koehler

Artist Ulrike Müller has been awarded the Prize of the Böttcherstraße in Bremen 2020. A group exhibition of the ten nominated artists (including Bani Abidi, Anne Duk Hee Jordan, Janine Jembere, Henrike Naumann and Raphaela Vogel) runs at Kunsthalle Bremen until 1 November. Read Stanton Taylor’s review for frieze of Müller’s 2019 exhibition at Kunstverein Düsseldorf here.

The city of Valencia has seen two recent institutional appointments: Nuria Enguita will now head up IVAM while Sandra Guimarães has been named as the new artistic director of Bombas Gens Art Centre.

FIAC, the Parisian contemporary art fair, has been cancelled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the three-part programme of Manifesta 13, which launched at the end of August in Marseilles, continues until 29 November.

Stay tuned for the next edition of our European gazette, published 23 October.

Main image: Ken Lum, Melly Shum Hates Her Job (detail), 1989/2018, billboard. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich

Sonja-Maria Borstner is a writer and curator based in Berlin, Germany. She is the editorial assistant at Gropius Bau and co-editor of the online magazine PASSE-AVANT.