The art world is a busy microcosm of energy, conflict and resurgence. It’s easy to miss stories about every showcase, policy change or kerfuffle that arises. That’s why I’m hear to bring you 3 news items you might’ve missed on your feed.
Some stories make you say “Ouch!” Others will make you say “Huh?” Either way, let’s take a dive into Extra! Extra!
Speaks Paints Out
Muralist phenom BLU in Berlin painted an amazing and somewhat impressively large mural on the outside of an abandoned building in an economically depressed area of Cuvrystraße-Kreuzberg back in 2008. You can watch the work unfold in the video below as it went up in brisk November weather.
The piece is thought to speak out on the conflict of life glamorized by material things that eventually chain us all to time, routine and the continual consumption of more material things. Despite any social or political leanings, many found the art piece a source of pride and it was often the spotlight in talking up the neighborhood.
Well, that same beloved neighborhood has since began to gentrify in the last few years and a new real estate developer has decided to put up luxury apartments directly in front of BLU’s mural. Essentially, the new residents would be the only ones who would be able to view this work and BLU decided he would have none of it.
In December 2014, along with a team of volunteers, BLU painted over the mural (as well as the well-known When The Finger Points To The Moon) in protest of gentrification and those who support it. This naturally sparked controversy from fans and critics. Far be it for me to argue that an artist shouldn’t have ultimate control over his work, but I would ask this question of BLU: “With gentrification the common trend in major cities these days, will this affect how and where you share your art?”
IMA Wants You To Pay
A Little More
It may seem odd to some to hear art museum patrons balk over an increase in admission price, but those people don’t understand how seriously some of us take our art. Some background? Allow me to explain.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art has been free to the public for much of its existence, according to those of us who only know it as the Indianapolis Museum of Art (psst! since 1969). However, rumor has it that in the actual 130 years of the museum’s legacy, there must have been a charge for admission at some point, but except for an odd period in 2006, most can’t recall.
So imagine patrons gasping when they learned that come April 2015 the fee to visit the IMA will go from $0 to $18. This announcement last December has created a wee bit of a backlash, that some could say IMA’s public relations’ team is not handling well.
I recall many fond memories of my visits to the IMA as a kid, and later as a “bigger kid.” I understand the need to generate revenue for projects and exhibitions you want in the future. However, charging a fee larger than the Louvre in Paris and without a guarantee that what you bring to the museum will be worthy of such a steep increase, I can’t say I fault the public for crying foul.
As many have pointed out, this price increase will affect working class adults’ ability to expose their families to great art on a regular basis. I think it’s also important to note that there are examples of museum attendance increasing when prices are low or free. The chairman of the board of governors for IMA claims that the ultimate goal is to increase the purchase of museum annual memberships. If so, I feel that his plan may not work as well as he hoped.
Hope for Hopi Heritage and the Navajo Nation?
It’s sadly not a surprise that a large number of artistic and cultural items obtained during colonialism and warfare have failed to make their way back to their original owners. From African pottery to Indian jewels to Navajo masks, many historical and religious artifacts are currently being displayed in museums and private homes with little regard to the communities that created such items and their determination to have them returned.
The ethical questions regarding the ownership of such pieces are often asked, but rarely answered. Perhaps that’s why auction houses like EVE in Paris continue to sell items like Hopi katsinam and Tlingit bentwood panels to the highest bidder. In the last 2 years on no less than 4 occasions, Paris auctioneers have refused to block the sale of North American indigenous cultural and religious artifacts. The most recent transgression took place in December 2014.
One positive aspect of this sad circumstance is the overwhelming support that has drawn more eyes and ears to the cause to save Native artifacts for the tribal nations fighting for their heritage. Not only are major news outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times covering these events with a critical eye, the nonprofit juggernaut known as the Annenberg Foundation has in at least 2 instances secretly purchased artifacts on the tribes’ behalf and returned the pieces to their rightful owners.
When the Navajo Nation managed to purchase 7 of their sacred objects at the Paris auction house in December, the outcry from the Native community and the non-Native community could not be ignored. Plus, groups like the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) have once again renewed their support in helping indigenous tribes continue the fight to have their cultural and religious history returned. One can only hope that if French law will not recognize Native sovereignty over their own heritage, art buyers will come to respect it on their own and refuse to purchase them.