Art News & Views

In the News

April 2011

Chinese Artist and Activist Ai Weiwei Detained

Beijing - Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, 53, was detained while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong on 3rd April, 2011, and has not been heard from since. Ai's wife, Lu Qing, said police raided their home and studio in Beijing on the night of 3rd April. They searched and removed items, including documents and computer components. "They took the computer, computer disks and other materials. They refused to say why the search warrant was issued or why Ai Weiwei was taken away," she said.

In January, his newly built Shanghai studio was demolished in retaliation for his criticism of city policies, and a month later, his first large solo exhibit in mainland China was cancelled over political sensitivities.

Ai has been a severe critic of Chinese leaders on many issues, including corruption and human rights violations. He has developed an international status for high-profile cultural work over the past decade, including his collaboration on the much-admired Bird's Nest stadium built for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the popular Sunflower Seeds art installation at London's Tate Modern in 2010. 

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told that, "Ai Weiwei is under investigation on suspicion of economic crimes," and "it has nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression." He refused to comment on the nature of the alleged crimes. “Other countries have no right to interfere," added Hong.

Western governments and rights groups have lined up in support of Ai, but Beijing signalled it would not tolerate criticism from abroad, "We urge the international community to react firmly to the arrests of bloggers and cyber-dissidents that are taking place at an unprecedented rate and to quickly denounce the increased harassment of foreign reporters in China which, we fear, is forcing many of them to censor themselves."

The United States, France, Germany and Britain have joined Amnesty International and other groups in calling for Ai's release, with US ambassador Jon Huntsman defending the artist in a Shanghai speech on 6th April, 2011.

India have announced participants for the Venice Biennale

New Delhi: For the first time, India has agreed to have an official pavilion in Venice Biennale. The pavilion has been organised with the support of the cultural ministry of Government of India and Lalit Kala Akademi. Ranjit Hoskote's name was already been announced as curator for the pavilion, and now has released the list of participating artists: Zarina Hashmi, a printmaker and sculptor, Gigi Scaria, a painter and video artist, Praneet Soi, a mixed-media artist, and The Desire Machine Collective, made up of the husband-and-wife team Mriganka Madhukaillya and Sonal Jain.

Jahawar Sircar, secretary of the ministry of culture has said lack of communication between the culture ministry and the country's National Gallery of Modern Art was the cause behind not having a pavilion at the Venice Biennale till date. He also said, "Public institutions in India cannot take credit for it. We are now exploiting this opportunity."

McQueen's Iconic Designs at Metropolitan Museum

The Spring 2011 Costume Institute Exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, will be displayed from May 4 till July 31, 2011. The exhibition will celebrate late Mr McQueen's extraordinary contributions to fashion. The exhibition will feature approximately 100 ensembles and 70 accessories from McQueen's creative 19-year career.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum's Costume Institute Benefit took place on Monday, May 2, 2011. The evening's Honorary Chairs were François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek, and the Co-Chairs were Colin Firth, Stella McCartney, and Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue.

“Alexander McQueen was best known for his astonishing and extravagant runway presentations, which were given dramatic scenarios and narrative structures that suggested avant-garde installation and performance art," said Andrew Bolton, Curator, The Costume Institute. “His fashions were an outlet for his emotions, an expression of the deepest, often darkest, aspects of his imagination.”

Transformation of Berlin Gas Station

Berlin: Freie Internationale Tankstelle (FIT) was back in Berlin, offering passersby a “fuelling station for the creative spirit” in a most unlikely art venue: a gas station. Founded in 2002 by the artist Dida Zende, the station itself dates back to the 1920s, a unique historical monument that Mr Zende has transformed into an “inverse white cube” for present-day artists.

FIT hosted “The Fountain of Clarity,” by the artists Mark Jenkins and Sandra Fernández, from April 6 to April 28, 2011. The show was part of the Pictoplasma Festival for contemporary character design and art. Mr Jenkins, an acclaimed street artist, casts life-size sculptures that merge the macabre and the absurd with an amount of dark humour.

Mr Jenkins and Ms Fernández, collaborators since 2005, have left such anonymous urban pieces in cities across North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. For their Berlin debut, the artists planned to make full use of the FIT's exterior structure as an urban canvas, essentially turning the entire building into a public artwork.

FIT serves the community more as a social sculpture than a classical exhibition space. Mr Zende's philosophy derives from the German artist Joseph Beuys. In the spirit of accessible art, Mr Zende has imitated his stylized white and red Berlin FIT in cities including Miami, Copenhagen and Cologne.

India, Thailand Encourage Cultural Exchanges

New Delhi: India and Thailand have agreed to double trade volume by 2014, which at present stands at six billion dollars.

In a joint statement issued on 5th April, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his Thailand counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva directed the negotiators to finalize the text of the Agreement by the end of 2011.

Recollecting the long history of cultural and historical bond between the two countries, both leaders approved that to lift relations to a higher level, the two countries shall increase and expand existing cultural exchanges to raise visibility and profile of the other country.

The two countries will also try exploring opportunities to encourage cultural exchanges in traditional art, contemporary art, literature, film making, music, dance and theatre.

In this context, both nations mutually settled that the Executive Programme of Cultural Exchange between the two countries should be enhanced at the earliest opportunity for the year 2011-2013 in order to facilitate and promote cultural exchanges.

Vejjajiva appreciated the fact that almost 800,000 Indian tourists had visited Thailand in the year 2010 and observed that visitors from India were the fastest-growing segment in the tourist inflow into Thailand. The two leaders agreed to impart greater facilitation to Thai Buddhist monks, pilgrims, students and tourists visiting India.

Crossway: A permanent bridge between the UK and Arab World

London: Paris has the Institute de Monde Arab, Madrid has the Casa Arab, but what about London? It's almost ironic that the United Kingdom has yet to house a permanent major cultural center to signify this strong bond between the United Kingdom and the Middle East.

Thankfully, Crossway Foundation aims to rectify that sooner than later. The Crossway Foundation is an exceptional project conceived and developed by the Prince's Regeneration Trust in partnership with Offscreen and Edge of Arabia. Together, they have identified a unique opportunity to transform a group of historic buildings in the heart of East London into the United Kingdom's first dedicated UK-Middle East education and arts center.

Over the past seven years, Offscreen and Edge of Arabia have garnered an impressive portfolio of projects and achievements between the UK and Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, the Gulf, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the United States. Their work with young people and artists has generated five international exhibitions, seven award-winning websites and over 200 workshops and resources for 1,500 schools, which have influenced the lives of over 25,000 young people and have reached an estimated audience of over two million.


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