General Art & Architecture of Interest

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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

Plan to Resurface a Pyramid in Granite Draws Heated Debate

A project to restore granite blocks that once covered a greater portion of the Pyramid of Menkaure in Giza has been criticized by some preservationists.

The Pyramid of Menkaure was once clad partly in granite blocks, visible in the lower portion. A plan to restore more of them is generating debate.Credit...Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When the Egyptian authorities released a video last week describing plans to resurface the Pyramid of Menkaure, the smallest of Giza’s three main pyramids, with the granite blocks that once clad part of its exterior, the initial reaction was swift — and harsh.

Some archaeologists criticized the idea. An online comment that was widely picked up by news organizations likened it to trying to “straighten the Tower of Pisa.” Others worried that covering the familiar limestone walls of the pyramid with new cladding would have the effect of turning the historic Giza plateau into an ersatz Disneyland.

The initiative was announced by Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, who called it “the project of the century” in a video posted Jan. 25 on social media. He has said the endeavor, led by a coalition of Egyptian and Japanese experts, would begin with at least a year of study, and that an international team would then decide whether to proceed with trying to restore the granite blocks that once covered roughly the bottom third of the pyramid.

Dr. Waziri did not return emails or a phone calls seeking comment. In an interview with the satellite TV station Ten on Tuesday evening, he dismissed criticism that has erupted online as “social media talk that has no basis in truth.”

Some online critics seemed to be under the impression that the smooth granite blocks visible in videos and photos of the pyramid — which contrast sharply with the more familiar textured limestone above — were new. But several Egyptologists said that they appeared to be the pyramid’s surviving granite blocks, which have been there for centuries, and which can be seen in photographs dating back to 1907.

The debate over the pyramid reflects a constant tension in the field of conservation: whether to try to return ancient structures to their earlier splendor or minimize intervention as much as possible.

“Both schools of thought elevate something,” said Leslie Anne Warden, an associate professor of art history and archaeology at Roanoke College, who emphasized that Egypt is far from the only country to confront these questions. “One is geared a bit more toward tourism. If you are going to Giza as a foreigner, you may be expecting to be transported to the ancient world. The other school says that you are glossing over huge portions of what happened and prioritizing one narrative.”

Elmo Asked an Innocuous Question

The Pyramid of Menkaure was built to house the tomb of King Menkaure, who ruled Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. It is the only one of the three main pyramids at Giza that was encased in multiple levels of Aswan granite, a red stone that comes from quarries more than 550 miles south of Giza. Scholars believe the pyramid was never completed after the king’s death.

Over the centuries, many of the granite stones fell off or were removed from the site for a variety of reasons, according to Morgan Moroney, the assistant curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Near Eastern art at the Brooklyn Museum. Even in ancient times, she said, people reused them to build nearby monuments or houses. Earthquakes, erosion and vandalism wore away at them over the centuries.

Salima Ikram, the head of the Egyptology unit at the ​​American University in Cairo, is cautiously optimistic about the new project.

“Scanning and documenting the pyramid and the blocks on the ground is very useful,” she said. If the team were to put the fallen blocks back in place in a way that is reversible, she said, it would be “eminently sensible.” But she cautioned against restoring any blocks if their origins are unclear and suggested that further study would be necessary to confirm that the pyramid could still support the weight of more granite cladding.

Ibrahim Mohamed Badr, an associate professor in the department of antiquities restoration and conservation at Misr University of Science and Technology in Giza, was skeptical about which stones on the site — many of them unpolished — could be confirmed as original to the pyramid.

“The ancient Egyptians would have polished the blocks when installing them in the pyramid itself,” he said. “Any attempt to fix and polish them would be a blatant interference in the work of the ancient Egyptians, who did not complete this pyramid.”

The Ministry of Antiquities did not respond to a request for comment or confirm the project’s budget. Waziri told al-Mehwar TV that the initial phase of the project — which is beginning at a time of soaring debt and inflation in Egypt — was being funded entirely by his Japanese partners. “We will not pay a dime,” he said.

The Menkaure project is part of a broader investment in Giza’s infrastructure, which includes new restaurants and visitor facilities. The Grand Egyptian Museum, which reportedly cost $1 billion and has been in the works for two decades, is poised to open later this year. ... 778d3e6de3
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

To Save Museums, Treat Them Like Highways


Ask any workers in the nonprofit arts sector — maybe after they have had a few drinks — and they will tell you that arts funding in this country is a mess.

Here’s an example: At a typical midsize arts institution — a place like the Toledo Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum of California or the Queens Museum, an institution at which one of us has firsthand experience — much of the energy of any director is spent cobbling together funding. Most of the annual budget comes from a combination of strapped local government agencies; private philanthropy, such as foundations, individuals and corporations; and ticket sales and other earned income sources, such as venue rentals or gala events.

But there’s a large chunk of the budget — usually about 40 percent — that involves infrastructure costs like keeping the lights on and paying the staff salaries. Those are the costs that few donors are stepping up to take care of (since there’s little public prestige) and that government arts grants, because of current rules, don’t cover. Yet it’s this gap in funding, this 40 percent, that’s too often threatening small and midsize cultural institutions across the country right now.

There is a better way to fund the arts in America. It requires a leap of faith and creative cultural and political organizing to achieve a change in mind-set.

As policymakers in Washington gather to draft a new budget for fiscal year 2025, they could solve culture’s current financial crisis and radically reshape how we think about sustaining the arts. They could do this by tapping into abundant appropriations that already enjoy bipartisan support. To make this possible, first we need to stop treating museums, theaters and galleries like sacred spaces that exist in some rarefied realm of public life. And we need to start treating them — and funding them — like interstate highways, high-speed internet and other infrastructure projects, using money that’s earmarked to maintain the country’s infrastructure.

Of course, a shift to considering the arts as part of our national infrastructure won’t be easy, either conceptually or practically. The mechanics of reallocating a small fraction of federal infrastructure dollars for cultural institutions would have to be mapped out, advocated and then put into legislation. Certainly, some politicians will object to funding the arts as infrastructure, just as they object to funding the arts in different ways now. But other industries are already subsidized by the federal government directly, as with the farm subsidy, developed during the Great Depression, which supports agricultural corporations to the tune of more than $10 billion a year.

There is currently no significant infrastructure money available to arts institutions from public coffers. On average, about 15 percent of an art museum’s annual budget is funded by government money, according to the Association of Art Museum Directors. Federal funding for the arts is largely allocated through the National Endowment for the Arts, or N.E.A., a beleaguered and consistently underfunded agency. The N.E.A. provides funding only for exhibitions and projects, and for fiscal year 2024, its allocated budget is $211 million for the entire country, which is less than the amount allocated by New York City for culture for the same year.

The N.E.A. is also a constant target of party politics over questions of content and appropriateness. Bad-faith actors earn political points by identifying the most controversial art exhibit in the country and using it as a cudgel to make all funding untenable. Political backlash over several N.E.A.-funded initiatives, including a 1989 exhibit of the photograph “Immersion (Piss Christ)” by Andres Serrano, who had received a small N.E.A. grant, led to attempts to defund the agency.

That’s why we need federal infrastructure funding for facilities, salaries and other infrastructural needs that can be delivered directly to institutions through a separate grant system. Infrastructure funding is plentiful and appealing across party lines; in 2021, in a bipartisan bill, the federal government allocated $1.2 trillion to national infrastructure projects over five years. If even 0.5 percent of those funds — $6 billion, or $1.2 billion annually over the same length of time — were marked to keep the lights on and pay salaries at the physical facilities that incubate, develop and present culture across the country, it would radically reshape our national cultural landscape. These funds would benefit crucial venues across the country, from the Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, Ky., to The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. — small and midsize venues and institutions that ensure a thriving cultural identity in every corner of America.

This shift in funding could be negotiated into a new infrastructure bill, which could be on the table as soon as 2025. As with infrastructure projects such as the building and maintenance of highways, funding cultural institutions will directly support employment: Culture in the United States employs about five million people and pumps about $1 trillion into the economy annually. New funding would boost local economies, cultivate a more equitable arts sector, and promote and protect arts organizations in small and medium-size cities. It would help to disentangle larger arts institutions from the largess of wealthy individuals and corporations, which currently wield an inordinate and thorny amount of influence. (Think of the Sackler family.) And it could defang some of the most pernicious culture-war arguments against arts funding, since it’s much harder to object to paying to fix a museum’s leaky roof than to paying to exhibit a photograph.

Federal funding of cultural institutions has already been proved to work. The pandemic-era federal initiative known as Save Our Stages helped preserve about 3,000 independent venues across the country by providing emergency funding.

We can’t abandon that effort; we need to build on it. We need to treat culture as equal to other forms of national infrastructure, as important to our national well-being as safe roads, clean drinking water and accessible utilities. ... 778d3e6de3
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Street Live Nagpur - Pratik Jain & The Culture of Busking

Post by kmaherali »

In Nagpur, the Orange City, known for its lush orange groves, Pratik Jain delivered a wonderful street performance at the picturesque Futala Lake. This spot, famed for its tranquil ambiance, hosted Pratik's heartfelt serenade, featuring songs like "Suno Na Sangemarmar", "Maan Mera", and "Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai".

Pratik's music not only captured the essence of street performance but also celebrated Nagpur's rich culture, blending the sweetness of oranges with the joy of live music.

This event at Futala Lake exemplifies the charm of street music, creating deep connections and unforgettable moments in the simplest settings.

JollyGul has also produced a short documentary titled "Street Music: The Culture of Busking", exploring the extensive and varied history of street music across different cultures and continents (link below).




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Surrealism Is 100. The World’s Still Surreal.

Post by kmaherali »

Exhibitions around the world are celebrating the art movement’s centennial and asking whether our crazy dreams can still set us free.


This is not an article. It’s a fish in the shape of a piano, floating in a clear blue sky, seen through a keyhole.

Surrealism, the art movement that gave us disembodied eyeballs, melting clocks and animals with mismatched parts, was born in 1924 when the French poet André Breton published a treatise decrying the vogue for realism and rationality.

Breton argued instead for embracing the “omnipotence of dreams” and exploring the unconscious and all that was “marvelous” in life. Art that could reach beyond the rational could liberate humanity, he felt. “The mere word ‘freedom’ is the only one that still excites me,” Breton wrote in his “Surrealist Manifesto.”

It was a literary idea that became an art movement and revolutionized nearly all forms of cultural production. It’s now commonplace to call pretty much any weird experience “surreal.”

A century later, what does Surrealism still have to offer us? Do its philosophical and political arguments have anything to say about contemporary life? Do we still, even in the faintest way, hear that Surrealist commandment: “Transform the world, change life”?

Museum directors, curators and art historians around the world will attempt to answer such questions this year, and Surrealism exhibitions will be everywhere, all at once. From Paris to Fort Worth, from Munich to Gainesville, Fla., and all the way to Shanghai, art institutions are mounting shows that explore the movement.

ImageA René Magritte painting is displayed behind a table littered with papers and stationary items.
“The Secret Double” by René Magritte, during the installation of a Surrealism show at the Bozar art center in Brussels.Credit...C. Herscovici/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times
In celebrating the centennial, curators are reclaiming Surrealism for today: Some are elevating the often-forgotten female Surrealists; others are connecting the dots to other art eras, like German Romanticism or early Netherlandish art; and some are focusing on Surrealism in photography and film.

The Pompidou Center in Paris, which owns one of the most extensive collections of French Surrealist art in the world, has organized the largest of the shows: a traveling exhibition that opened in Brussels on Feb. 21 and moves to Paris on Sept. 4. The show then goes to Hamburg and Madrid, and wraps up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2026.

By lending those museums about 30 major artworks by Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst and Man Ray, the Pompidou is giving each institution a base upon which to develop its own Surrealism show, and each will have a different focus.

The first iteration — “Imagine! 100 Years of International Surrealism,” at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium through July 21 — links Surrealism with Symbolism, a 19th-century precursor movement with a similar disdain for realism.

With all these interpretations of Surrealism floating around, it can seem difficult to pinpoint a definition of the term. What most experts agree on is that Surrealism wasn’t necessarily about art.

“I hope that people will discover that Surrealism is a state of mind and a way of looking at things,” said Francisca Vandepitte, who curated the show at the Royal Museums. “It’s not something theoretical and very complicated. The main force is something that we all know. It’s irrational, and it’s our dreams, and it’s liberating.”

Sculptures and paintings in a white-walled gallery.
Hans Bellmer’s “The Doll,” and paintings by Salvador Dalí at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.Credit...Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society; Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

Invented in Europe in the wake of World War I, and following a flu pandemic, Surrealism embraced Freud’s theories of the unconscious, rejected authoritarianism and colonialism, and, at first, espoused communism, though many followers later rejected it.

Although Breton’s circle was mostly in Paris, Surrealism’s signature adherents were spread internationally: Dalí and Miró were Spanish, de Chirico was Italian, Magritte was Belgian, Leonora Carrington was British and Frida Kahlo was Mexican.

Even as Surrealism’s centennial is celebrated this year, some art historians see it as a much older impulse that runs like an electrical current throughout art history, with jolts in the Middle Ages, between the two World Wars, in the postwar era and in the 1960s.

“The Surrealists went back in history and claimed people like Hieronymus Bosch, or Giuseppe Arcimboldo, and said these were Surrealists before there was Surrealism,” said Robert Zeller, the author of “New Surrealism: The Uncanny in Contemporary Painting.”

A black-and-white group photograph shows 12 men and women in 1920s dress.
Artists at an early Surrealism exhibition in London, in the 1930s, including Salvador Dalí, second row, third from left; and Paul Éluard, to his left.Credit...Evening Standard/Getty Images

“Other art movements said, ‘History is bunk and we want to start at year zero,’” Zeller added. “The Surrealists saw themselves as having had a legacy going backwards and forwards.”

Zeller also pointed out that the origins of Surrealism are not entirely unambiguous. Besides Breton’s manifesto, there was another “Manifesto of Surrealism,” written by the poet Yvan Goll, the leader of another Surrealist faction, and published a month before Breton’s. Goll rejected the Freudian aspect of Breton’s vision, and argued for a Surrealism grounded in reality, but taken to “a higher plane.”

Around the same time, the Belgian poet Paul Nougé also published his own Surrealist tracts called “Correspondence,” which are on display at an exhibition in Brussels at the Bozar art center.

Xavier Canonne, the show’s curator, said that Nougé should be regarded as a founder of Surrealism on par with Breton. “If there is one thing I’d like to come out of this show, it’s that people discover Paul Nougé,” he said. “And that people from outside Belgium discover that there was a real movement of Surrealism in Belgium for more than 70 years.”

Nougé influenced René Magritte to shift from abstraction to surrealism, Canonne said, and Nougé also established a Surrealist center in Brussels that attracted many other artists to the movement, even as Magritte moved to Paris in 1927 to join Breton’s followers.

A man in a white-walled gallery stands with his arms folded in front of a painting by René Magritte.
Xavier Canonne, curator of “Histoire de ne pas rire. Surrealism in Belgium,” viewing “Portrait of Paul Nougé” by René Magritte at Bozar in Brussels.Credit...C. Herscovici/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

Patricia Allmer, an art history professor at the University of Edinburgh, said that this contest for ownership reflects how flexible and adaptable Surrealism’s basic principles could be.

“Surrealism was indeed, from its beginnings, a multiplicity,” she said. “Breton’s manifesto became the famous one,” she said, but “you can’t claim it as a movement. It’s a plurality. That’s why it’s so rich and so malleable: It can be used by different artists in different contexts.”

Allmer also said that Surrealism didn’t find its most profound uses until female artists adopted its methods in the post-World War II era, as she plans to show in an exhibition she is curating later this year at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, England.

“Breton always emphasized the Surrealism breaks boundaries, but it often excluded women,” Allmer said. “Women artists took the truth of Surrealism to make feminist political statements and push beyond the gender boundary.”

A Surrealist painting by Dorothea Tanning.
“A Very Happy Picture” by Dorothea Tanning.Credit...Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

The notion that art should be ideological, rather than representational, is central to the Surrealist spirit, said Mark Polizzotti, whose book “Why Surrealism Matters” was published in January, he describes Surrealism as “a disrupter,” and a way of thinking that “perpetually challenges the existing paradigms and seeks new forms to maintain its emotional intensity.”

Polizzotti points to the Surrealists’ objection to French colonialism and racism, which he said were similar to the current discussions about racial equality and social justice. In his book, he quotes Breton’s declaration “Surrealism is allied with people of color, because it has always been on their side against every form of white imperialism and banditry.”

In an interview, Polizzotti said: “We’re in a world today that’s not unlike the world in which they emerged. We came out of a pandemic, there are questions about labor reform and anti-colonialism and exhibition strategies in the art world. These were things they were grappling with as well.”

The Pompidou’s exhibition will end with the death of Breton in 1966, but the show’s curator, Didier Ottinger, acknowledged that this wasn’t Surrealism’s final chapter.

A woman in a white-waled studio in which five paintings of women in 18th century dress stand on easels.
Ewa Juszkiewicz in her studio in Warsaw. She is one of about 30 “New Surrealists” mentioned in Robert Zeller’s book “New Surrealism: The Uncanny in Contemporary Painting.”Credit...Anna Liminowicz for The New York Times

Acolytes of the Surrealists “tried to keep the idea of Surrealism alive for a few years,” he said. But in October 1969, one of its leaders, Jean Schuster, announced the formal dissolution of the Surrealist group in the French newspaper Le Monde.

Many artists refused to accept this death decree, and wrote in protest to Le Monde. “Letters came flooding in from all over the world from artists who said, ‘No, we are alive,’” Ottinger said. “So, as long as there were more artists, it could not die.”

Polizzotti said that Surrealism continued to extend into other art forms, like the tragicomic Theater of the Absurd and the bizarre skits of the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Surrealist tendencies also appear in the cinematic world of David Lynch, whose films, like “Eraserhead” and “Mulholland Drive,” dive into dark psychosexual desires that lie beneath the surface of a seemingly tranquil world.

And it has certainly not died in the fine arts, either. In Zeller’s book, he identifies about 30 “New Surrealists,” including the Polish painter Ewa Juszkiewicz, who makes portraits of women covered in plants, and the Taiwanese artist Lin Shih-Yung, who paints humans with bananas for heads.

“It’s the transformative nature of Surrealism that continues to make it relevant,” Allmer said. “Surrealism is inherently political. It started as a protest movement and a way to counter fascism and authoritarianism, so that’s why it still can be a very powerful political weapon for today. It will always be relevant. I would say, it’s a future movement.”

Some 2024 Surrealism Exhibitions

“Imagine! 100 Years of International Surrealism”
Through July 21 at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium, in Brussels;

“Histoire de ne pas rire. Surrealism in Belgium”
Through June 16 at Bozar, in Brussels;

“Fantastic Visions: 100 Years of Surrealism From the National Galleries of Scotland”
Through Aug. 31 at the Museum of Art Pudong, in Shanghai;

“Surrealist: Lee Miller”
Through April 14 at the Heide Museum, in Melbourne, Australia;

“But Live Here? No Thanks: Surrealism + Anti-Fascism”
Oct. 15 through March 2, 2025, at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, in Munich;

“Surrealism at the Harn,”
Through June 2 at the Harn Museum of Art, in Gainesville, Fla.;

“Surrealism From Caribbean and African Diasporic Artists”
March 10 through July 28 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth;

“Surrealism 100: Prague, Tartu and Other Stories”
April 4 through Sept. 8 at the Eesti Rahva Muuseum, in Tartu, Estonia;

“Surrealism: Worlds in Dialogue”
Aug. 31, 2024, through Jan. 5, 2025, at the Kunsthalle Vogelmann, in Heilbronn, Germany;

“Surrealism So Far”
Sept. 4 through Jan. 13, 2025, at the Pompidou Center, in Paris;

“Forbidden Territories: 100 Years of Surreal Landscapes”
Nov. 23 through April 27, 2025, at the Hepworth Wakefield, in Wakefield, England;

A version of this article appears in print on March 3, 2024, Section AR, Page 12 of the New York edition with the headline: At 100, Surrealism Isn’t Really Dead. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe ... 778d3e6de3
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The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum

Post by kmaherali »

Fighting for a snapshot of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Some psychologists suggest that taking a slower, more contemplative approach at museums could make visitors more likely to connect with the art.Credit...Guia Besana for The New York Times

Ah, the Louvre. It’s sublime, it’s historic, it’s … overwhelming.

Upon entering any vast art museum — the Hermitage, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art — the typical traveler grabs a map and spends the next two hours darting from one masterpiece to the next, battling crowds, exhaustion and hunger (yet never failing to take selfies with boldface names like Mona Lisa).

What if we slowed down? What if we spent time with the painting that draws us in instead of the painting we think we’re supposed to see?

Most people want to enjoy a museum, not conquer it. Yet the average visitor spends 15 to 30 seconds in front of a work of art, according to museum researchers. And the breathless pace of life in our Instagram age conspires to make that feel normal. But what’s a traveler with a long bucket list to do? Blow off the Venus de Milo to linger over a less popular lady like Diana of Versailles?

“When you go to the library,” said James O. Pawelski, the director of education for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, “you don’t walk along the shelves looking at the spines of the books and on your way out tweet to your friends, ‘I read 100 books today!'” Yet that’s essentially how many people experience a museum. “They see as much of art as you see spines on books,” said Professor Pawelski, who studies connections between positive psychology and the humanities. “You can’t really see a painting as you’re walking by it.”

There is no right way to experience a museum, of course. Some travelers enjoy touring at a clip or snapping photos of timeless masterpieces. But psychologists and philosophers such as Professor Pawelski say that if you do choose to slow down — to find a piece of art that speaks to you and observe it for minutes rather than seconds — you are more likely to connect with the art, the person with whom you’re touring the galleries, maybe even yourself, he said. Why, you just might emerge feeling refreshed and inspired rather than depleted.

To demonstrate this, Professor Pawelski takes his students to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, home to some of the most important Post Impressionist and early modern paintings, and asks them to spend at least 20 minutes in front of a single painting that speaks to them in some way. Twenty minutes these days is what three hours used to be, he noted. “But what happens, of course, is you actually begin to be able to see what you’re looking at,” he said.

Julie Haizlip wasn’t so sure. A scientist and self-described left-brain thinker, Dr. Haizlip is a clinical professor at the School of Nursing and the Division of Pediatric Critical Care at the University of Virginia. While studying at Penn she was among the students Professor Pawelski took to the Barnes one afternoon in March.

A gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Sandra Jackson-Dumont, who oversees education programs at the museum, said you could make a sprawling museum digestible and personal by seeking out only those works that dovetail with your interests.Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“I have to admit I was a bit skeptical,” said Dr. Haizlip, who had never spent 20 minutes looking at a work of art and prefers Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock to Matisse, Rousseau and Picasso, whose works adorn the Barnes.

Any museumgoer can do what Professor Pawelski asks students such as Dr. Haizlip to do: Pick a wing and begin by wandering for a while, mentally noting which works are appealing or stand out. Then return to one that beckons. For instance, if you have an hour he suggests wandering for 30 minutes, and then spending the next half-hour with a single compelling painting. Choose what resonates with you, not what’s most famous (unless the latter strikes a chord).

Indeed, a number of museums now offer “slow art” tours or days that encourage visitors to take their time. Rather than check master works off a list as if on a scavenger hunt, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, who oversees the education programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said you can make a sprawling museum digestible and personal by seeking out only those works that dovetail with your interests, be it a love of music or horses. To find relevant works or galleries, research the museum’s collection online in advance of your visit. Or stop by the information desk when you arrive, tell a staff member about your fascination with, say, music, and ask for suggestions. If the person doesn’t know or says, “we don’t have that,” ask if there’s someone else you can talk to, advised Ms. Jackson-Dumont, because major museums are rife with specialists. Might you miss some other works by narrowing your focus? Perhaps. But as Professor Pawelski put it, sometimes you get more for the price of admission by opting to see less.

Initially, nothing in the Barnes grabbed Dr. Haizlip. Then she spotted a beautiful, melancholy woman with red hair like her own. It was Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting of a prostitute, “AMontrouge” — Rosa La Rouge.

“I was trying to figure out why she had such a severe look on her face,” said Dr. Haizlip. As the minutes passed, Dr. Haizlip found herself mentally writing the woman’s story, imagining that she felt trapped and unhappy — yet determined. Over her shoulder, Toulouse-Lautrec had painted a window. “There’s an escape,” Dr. Haizlip thought. “You just have to turn around and see it.”

“I was actually projecting a lot of me and what was going on in my life at that moment into that painting,” she continued. “It ended up being a moment of self-discovery.” Trained as a pediatric intensive-care specialist, Dr. Haizlip was looking for some kind of change but wasn’t sure what. Three months after her encounter with the painting, she changed her practice, accepting a teaching position at the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing, where she is now using positive psychology in health care teams. “There really was a window behind me that I don’t know I would have seen,” she said, “had I not started looking at things differently.”

Professor Pawelski said it’s still a mystery why viewing art in this deliberately contemplative manner can increase well-being or what he calls flourishing. That’s what his research is trying to uncover. He theorized, however, that there is a connection to research on meditation and its beneficial biological effects. In a museum, though, you’re not just focusing on your breath, he said. “You’re focusing on the work of art.”

Previous research, including a study led by Stephen Kaplan at the University of Michigan, has already suggested that museums can serve as restorative environments. And Daniel Fujiwara at the London School of Economics and Political Science has found that visiting museums can have a positive impact on happiness and self-reported health.

Ms. Jackson-Dumont, who has also worked at the Seattle Art Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum of American Art, said travelers should feel empowered to “curate” their own experience. Say, for example, you do not like hearing chatter when you look at art. Ms. Jackson-Dumont suggests making your own soundtrack at home and taking headphones to the museum so that you can stroll the galleries accompanied by music. “I think people feel they have to behave a certain way in a museum,” she said. “You can actually be you.”

To that end, many museums are encouraging visitors to take selfies with the art and post them on social media. (In case you missed it, Jan. 22 was worldwide "MuseumSelfie" day with visitors sharing their best work on Twitter using an eponymous hashtag.) Selfie-takers often pose like the subject of the painting or sculpture behind them. To some visitors that seems crass, distracting or antithetical to contemplation. But surprisingly, Ms. Jackson-Dumont has observed that when museumgoers strike an art-inspired pose, it not only creates camaraderie among onlookers but it gives the selfie-takers a new appreciation for the art. In fact, taking on the pose of a sculpture, for example, is something the Met does with visitors who are blind or partially sighted because “feeling the pose” can allow them to better understand the work.

There will always be certain paintings or monuments that travelers feel they must see, regardless of crowds or lack of time. To winnow the list, Ms. Jackson-Dumont suggests asking yourself: What are the things that, if I do not see them, will leave me feeling as if I didn’t have a New York (or any other city) experience? (Museum tours may also help you be efficient.)

The next time you step into a vast treasure trove of art and history, allow yourself to be carried away by your interests and instincts. You never know where they might lead you. Before leaving the Barnes on that March afternoon, Dr. Haizlip had another unexpected moment: She bought a print of the haunting Toulouse-Lautrec woman.

“I felt like she had more to tell me,” she said. ... 778d3e6de3
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An Architect Who Builds Community Wins the Pritzker Prize

Post by kmaherali »

Riken Yamamoto of Japan is recognized for modest designs that inspire social connection and both literal and figurative transparency.


Riken Yamamoto, whose understated buildings quietly emphasize community and connectivity, has been awarded this year’s Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor.

“Whether he designs private houses or public infrastructure, schools or fire stations, city halls or museums, the common and convivial dimension is always present,” the jury said in its citation announcing the award on Tuesday. “His constant, careful and substantial attention to community has generated public interworking space systems that incentivize people to convene in different ways.”

ImageA view through the vast corridors of an open-air summer cottage reveals the trees and greenery on the other side.
Yamakawa Villa, 1977, Nagano, Japan. This early project, for a client who wanted a summer cottage in the woods, is designed like an open-air terrace, without exterior walls. Living rooms seamlessly merge -- and animals are welcome.Credit...Tomio Ohashi/The Pritzker Architecture Prize
An open structure with no walls, but with a wood-plank roof and similar floors as the only elements connecting the capsule rooms.
In the private residence, Yamakawa Village, sleeping quarters and the kitchen are dispersed into small rooms.Credit...Tomio Ohashi/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

The desire to eliminate barriers between public and private realms was evident in Yamamoto’s first project, from 1977, a private open-air summer house in the woods of Nagano, Japan. “It has only a roof, no walls,” the 78-year-old architect recalled in a telephone interview from Yokohama, Japan, where he is based. “In the winter season, many of the animals are coming in.”

Similarly, a house in Kawasaki that Yamamoto designed the following year for two artists featured a pavilion-like room that could serve as a stage for performances, with living quarters underneath.

People continually asked, “Why Yamamoto makes such a strange house?” the architect said. “I explain the meaning every time: The community is the most important thing. Every family has a relation to community.”

The prestigious Pritzker award may be most closely associated with “starchitect” recipients such as Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. But in recent years the jury has also recognized lower-profile designers, such as Francis Kéré of West Africa (2022), Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal (2021) and Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (2020).

Glass-walled buildings housing glass-walled classrooms are connected by platforms and terraces, framing a courtyard.
Saitama Prefectural University, 1999, Koshigaya, Japan. Its nine buildings are linked by terraces that transition into walkways through sloping green spaces and courtyards. Transparent walls make classroom and buildings visible from afar, encouraging collaboration and connection.Credit...Riken Yamamoto & Field Shop/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

Yamamoto’s public projects with his firm, Riken Yamamoto & Field Shop, have also been oriented around social interaction. Saitama Prefectural University, completed in 1999, features nine transparent buildings connected by terraces, allowing views from one classroom to another. “Distinguishing where one building ends and another begins is intentionally blurred,” the Pritzker says in its image book of Yamamoto’s work, “prompting an architectural language of its own.”

“His architecture clearly expresses his beliefs through the modular structure and the simplicity of its form,” the jury said in its citation. “Yet, it does not dictate activities, rather it enables people to shape their own lives within his buildings with elegance, normality, poetry and joy.”

The architect has combined transparency, functionality and accessibility in projects like the Future University, Hakodate (2000), whose underlying philosophy, “Open Space, Open Mind,” is reflected in Yamamoto’s open spaces. The classrooms, auditorium and library are lined with glass walls and open common areas are placed just outside of the transparent rooms on overlapping levels, encouraging students and teachers to work collaboratively.

A transparent cube, several stories tall, with an open parking area on the ground floor.
Hiroshima Nishi Fire Station, 2000, Hiroshima, Japan. The facade, interior walls and floors are constructed of glass, lending the appearance of a transparent volume. Credit...Tomio Ohashi/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

A man in an orange jumpsuit and white helmet with a net beneath him scrambles across a line strung from one side of fire headquarters to the other as observers watch.
Hiroshima Nishi Fire Station 2000 Hiroshima, Japan. The visible atrium, where the firefighters train, encourages the community to view and engage with them in a reciprocal commitment between civil servants and the people they serve.Credit...Tomio Ohashi/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

For the Hiroshima West Fire Station (2000), Yamamoto constructed the facade, interior walls and floors out of glass and made the atrium where firefighters train central to the building, encouraging passers-by to view and engage with those who are protecting the community.

When designing Jian Wai SOHO in 2004, nine residential towers and four small home offices just east of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Yamamoto said he successfully resisted the developer’s efforts to make the community gated. “I tried to make it open to the city,” the architect said.

In 2020, Yamamoto designed the Circle at Zurich Airport, an indoor-outdoor complex of hotels, restaurants and stores featuring glass walls, windowed ceilings and thin concrete columns.

Typically airports “have only souvenir shops, but this is completely different,” Yamamoto said in 2016, adding that his complex “is not for the airport itself. The planned city is for local residents of the Zurich region.”

Born in 1945 in China and trained in Japan, Yamamoto was 5 when he lost his father, an engineer, whose career he sought to emulate, eventually finding his way to architecture. At the age of 17, he visited Kohfukuji Temple, in Nara, one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist shrines, with a history dating to the seventh century. There he was captivated by the five-story pagoda symbolizing the elements of earth, water, fire, air and space.

“It was very dark, but I could see the wooden tower illuminated by the light of the moon,” he said in the Pritzker biography, “and what I found at that moment was my first experience with architecture.”

In 1968, Yamamoto graduated from Nihon University and three years later received a Master of Arts in Architecture from Tokyo University of the Arts. He founded his practice in 1973.

Yamamoto was influenced by his mentor, the architect Hiroshi Hara, designer of the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, which features two towers connected at the top by glass bridges and is now considered a landmark. Yamamoto’s 2018 winning design for the Taoyuan Museum of Art in Taiwan comprises two buildings with green inclined roofs connected with an aboveground corridor.

A row of terraced housing units capped with arched floating roofs.
Hotakubo Housing, 1991, Kumamoto, Japan. Housing clusters arranged around a tree-lined central square drew on traditional Japanese living arrangements that foster communality.Credit...Tomio Ohashi/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

Inspired by the theories of Hannah Arendt, Yamamoto is committed “to the belief that all spaces may enrich and serve the consideration of an entire community,” the Pritzker jury said, “and not just those who occupy them. He moved from single-family residences to social housing, such as the Hotakubo project in Kumamoto (1991), with 16 housing clusters arranged around a tree-lined central square. The design drew on traditional Japanese “machiya” (townhouses) and Greek “oikos” (households) — living arrangements that foster collectivism.

He went on to create larger public projects, like Tianjin Library in China (2012), which incorporates bookshelves into an intersecting grid of wall beams. Stone louvers on the exterior mitigate dust and achieve transparency.

Tianjin Library, 2012, Tianjin, China, with a collection of six million books. The building appears as 10 crisscrossing levels; from any level viewers can see others levels. Credit...Riken Yamamoto & Field Shop/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

Inside are the tall shelves built into a system of grids.
The Tianjin Library has a collection of six million books. The shelves are integrated with a grid of intersecting beams.Credit...Nacasa & Partners/The Pritzker Architecture Prize

Yamamoto has also made an effort to personally give back, collaborating with the architects Toyo Ito and Kazuyo Sejima on disaster-relief community housing following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck Tohoku in 2011 and caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. And in 2018 he instituted the Local Republic Award, to honor young architects.

“For some reason, we’re educated to accept that an architect must be good and arrogant, leading us to wrongly believe arrogance is a condition for goodness,” Graham McKay, an architect and professor, wrote in his “Misfits’ Architecture” blog in 2021. “I’d like to use Riken Yamamoto and his career to illustrate that that’s not true.”

Often composed of essential, everyday materials like aluminum, glass, concrete and wood, Yamamoto’s buildings don’t call attention to themselves. But their priorities come through loud and clear. “My architecture is a strong message,” Yamamoto said, “to make something in relation to other people.” ... cture.html
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Daur-e-Hayyat (Time of Life) | Dr. Karim Gillani & Kashif Din | Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar | Ghazal

Post by kmaherali »



JollyGul is thrilled to announce the release of the original ghazal video “Daur-e-Hayyat,” featuring the profound poetry of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, sung by the talented Dr. Karim Gillani and Kashif Din. This captivating piece brings to life the enduring verses of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar (1878–1931), a distinguished figure in the Indian struggle for independence, whose poetic prowess delves into the philosophical and spiritual realms of existence, resilience, and the quest for freedom.

“Daur-e-Hayyat” (The Time or Cycle of Life) explores the transient nature of life and the human spirit's indefatigable resilience against temporal challenges. Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar's words echo through time, offering inspiration and solace to those engaged in the perpetual fight for justice and liberation. His poetry, marked by its thematic richness and depth, continues to resonate across generations, celebrating the literary, cultural, and political heritage of the Indian subcontinent.

The murder of Hussain (A.S) is mentioned and described as actually the fatality of Yazed; Islam comes to revival after every Karbala-like bloodshed: This is a profound statement on the martyrdom of Hussain at Karbala, symbolizing the triumph of truth and righteousness over falsehood and tyranny. Hussain's martyrdom is seen not as his defeat but as the moral and spiritual defeat of his oppressor, Yazed. It suggests that Islam, or faith itself, is rejuvenated and strengthened through the sacrifice of the righteous, echoing the theme of rebirth and renewal after adversity.

This ghazal is enchantingly rendered by Dr. Karim Gillani and Kashif Din, whose vocal prowess and emotional depth breathe new life into Jauhar's timeless verses. Accompanied by a serene melody in Raga Yaman, composed by Dr. Karim Gillani, and the elegant sounds designed by Hi Studio Productions, the video features naturally beautiful landscapes captured and directed by Alizain Mevawala and Riaz Ali.

“Daur-e-Hayyat” is a highlight of Dr. Karim Gillani’s sixth original album, "Echoes of the Divine: Sufi Soundscapes," which masterfully arranges and composes various styles and genres of South Asian Sufi traditions to enhance the soundscape of Sufi spirituality and unity.

We invite you to experience the beauty and depth of “Daur-e-Hayyat,” a testament to the enduring power of poetry, music, and the human spirit in the ongoing journey towards freedom, justice, and truth. Join us in celebrating the artistic and spiritual contributions of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, Dr. Karim Gillani, and Kashif Din to our shared cultural heritage.
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

An Artist’s Response to a Racist Mural Walks a Fine Line

Activists urged Tate Britain to take an offensive artwork from 1927 off its walls, but the museum instead commissioned Keith Piper to create a response.

“Viva Voce,” a video created by Keith Piper shares a new gallery space at Tate Modern with a 1927 mural by Rex Whistler.Credit...Kemka Ajoku for The New York Times

For nearly 100 years, a 55-foot-long mural was the backdrop to a high-class restaurant at Tate Britain. As diners quaffed fine wine and ate expensive dishes, they could glance at the painting by Rex Whistler depicting a hunting party riding through a fantastical landscape.

Few visitors to the London art museum appeared to notice two small sections of Whistler’s scene, each taking up just a few inches: one depicting a white woman, wearing a billowing dress and bonnet, dragging a Black boy by a rope, as the boy’s unclothed, terrified mother watches from a tree; the other showing the same boy, shackled by a collar, running behind a cart.

It was only in 2020, after George Floyd’s murder and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, that antiracism campaigners highlighted those sections on social media and demanded the mural’s removal. Soon, Tate shuttered the restaurant, and administrators began agonizing over what to do about the painting, titled “The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats.”

On Tuesday, their solution went on display when Tate Britain reopened the ornate room containing the work. Rather than diners, the mural now surrounds a large video work by the Black British artist Keith Piper that aims to highlight and explain Whistler’s racist imagery. Chloe Hodge, the exhibit’s curator, said Piper’s work would be on display for around a year.

With this new presentation, Tate Britain is trying to balance the demands of activists, who want offensive artworks removed from view, and conservative politicians and art enthusiasts, many of whom want museums to avoid any hint of “woke” posturing. But in steering a middle course between those positions, Piper said, he knew that he and the museum could annoy both sides.

“A lot of people said this is a poisoned chalice,” Piper said.

A man wearing a dark jacket, sweater and pants leans against a wall with his hands clasped.
Keith Piper’s piece directly addresses the racist imagery in Whistler’s mural, and views in through a critical and historical lens.Credit...Kemka Ajoku for The New York Times

Called “Viva Voce” after the Latin name used for college oral exams in Britain, Piper’s 22-minute, two-screen film dramatizes an imagined conversation between Whistler (played by Ian Pink) and a university lecturer (Ellen O’Grady). In the film’s first half, the academic questions Whistler about the history of the mural, which the artist completed in 1927. The mood switches suddenly when she points to Whistler’s depiction of the Black mother hiding in a tree.

“Who is this?” the lecturer demands. “Oh, just a bit of humor,” Whistler replies.

The lecturer has more questions for Whistler: about the racist depictions of Black people in other artworks he produced, and about the treatment of ethnic minorities in 1920s Britain.

In the video, Whistler is confused by the line of questioning. “This is all becoming rather unsavory,” he says: “I thought you wanted to discuss my work.”

In Britain, discussions around problematic artworks have tended to focus less on an artist’s motivations and societal influences, and more on whether a sculpture or painting should be on display at all. But Whistler’s mural, which is painted directly onto the museum walls, is protected under British heritage laws, meaning Tate Britain could not easily remove or alter it, even if its administrators had wanted to. And last year, Britain’s Conservative government published guidance that said museums must “retain and explain” problematic statues or artworks that are part of a building.

Even so, some art critics and members of Tate’s own young and diverse staff urged the museum to hide the mural behind a screen.

Antiracism campaigners began to highlight sections of the Whistler mural on social media around 2020, after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.Credit...Kemka Ajoku for The New York Times
Tate Britain could not remove or alter the work, even if its administrators had wanted to, because of British heritage laws.Credit...Kemka Ajoku for The New York Times

Hodge, the curator, said that she chose Piper to respond to Whistler’s mural because she felt he would “engage deeply” with the original painting and wouldn’t produce “something reactionary.” She added that she expected the work to divide opinion. “We can’t commission work that’s going to do everything for everybody,” Hodge said: “This is Keith’s own artistic response at the end of the day.”

For decades, Piper — a founder of the Blk Art Group, a collective of Black artists formed in 1980s England — has explored issues of racism and slavery in his art. In his 1996 video work “Go West Young Man,” a father and son discuss racist stereotypes; “The Coloureds’ Codex,” a fake historical artifact Piper created in 2017, features jars of black, brown and cream paint to represent the ways that plantation owners classified and controlled enslaved people.

Zehra Jumabhoy, an art history lecturer at the University of Bristol, said that she was surprised when Tate Britain chose Piper for the commission because “his early work was so angry.” If the museum had wanted to avoid inflaming tensions around the mural, there were safer options, she added.

Yet for some artists, Piper was the obvious choice. Hew Locke, the prominent Guyanese British artist, said that Piper’s art had the bravery, historical rigor and occasional humor needed for the high-profile commission. Piper was “his own man,” Locke said, and was not out to please anyone but himself.

Two large screens, installed in a darkened gallery, show a close-up of a painting on one side, and a man and a woman in conversation on the other.
Chloe Hodge, the exhibit’s curator, said that she expected the work would divide opinion. “We can’t commission work that’s going to do everything for everybody,” she said.Credit...Kemka Ajoku for The New York Times

In an interview at Tate Britain’s cafe, Piper said that he had never eaten in the restaurant space where his work is now on show — “It was too expensive!” he said — and so hadn’t seen the mural before the uproar.

But he had not been shocked to learn that there was racist imagery on Tate Britain’s walls, he said — such stereotypical figures were once commonplace in British art. What had surprised him, though, was how long the museum took to do something about the mural. While delving into the institution’s archives, Piper said, he found visitor letters dating from the 1970s that complained about the painting.

Though the way Whistler had portrayed Black people was unacceptable, Piper said, he didn’t agree with those who had urged Tate Britain to remove the mural or hide it behind a screen. “My argument is, by leaving it up, it becomes an important witness to history, and by countering it, we learn things and we hear things, that we may not have heard before,” he said. “That’s the important role of the arts and of museums.”

After the interview, Piper walked through into Tate Britain’s newest gallery to make some final checks on “Viva Voce.” He chatted briefly with Hodge, who said that some other Tate Britain staff members had come by to see the piece. Although they liked it, she said, some had expected the film to be “more condemnatory of Rex Whistler.”

Piper looked surprised. “Isn’t it condemnatory?” he asked.

Hodge paused for a moment. “Well,” she said, “there’s always two sides.”

Whistler’s Mural in Tate Britain ... piper.html
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

Divers searching for ancient shipwrecks make incredible discovery

Researcher’s used Homer’s Iliad as a guide to find a number of ancient artifacts (Picture: Greek Ministry of Culture)
© Provided by Metro

Explorers have found 10 shipwrecks off the coast of Greece, with one being at least 5,000-year-old.

Researcher’s used Homer’s Iliad as a guide to find a number of ancient artifacts during a four-year survey off the coast of Kasos in the Aegean sea.

They found the remains of 10 sunken ships, with the oldest dating back t o 3,000 BC.

The ships span across different eras, including the Classical period (460 BC), the Hellenistic period (100 BC to 100 AD), the Roman years (200 BC – 300 AD) and the Byzantine period (800 – 900 AD).

The most recent vessel was a World War II era ship made of wood, the Greek Ministry of Culture announced.

Unique finds from Spain, Italy, Africa and Asia Minor were also found.
This includes a Spanish amphora with a seal on its handle dating between 150-170 AD.

Researchers found the remains of 10 sunken ships (Picture: Greek Ministry of Culture)

Unique finds from Spain, Italy, Africa and Asia Minor were also found (Picture: Greek Ministry of Culture)

Everything was found 65 and 155 feet below surface (Picture: Greek Ministry of Culture)

Drinking vessels, African terra sigillata flasks and a stone ancho from the 8th century BC were also discovered.

They were all found between 65 and 155 feet below surface.

Kasos served as a major trade hub east of Crete and played a role in the Trojan war, according to Homer’s Iliad.

The survey’s website said: ‘It is the first systematic research on the seabed of Kasos with the main objective of locating, recording and studying the antiquities of an area at the crossroads of cultures and once a center of navigation.’ ... 6a62&ei=64#
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Allah Hoo Dance | Sufi Kathak Fusion Choreography | Alhamra Unplugged | Diamond Jubilee Tribute

Post by kmaherali »

Happy video day #dancewithSL fam! I put together this tribute dance piece, a fusion of Kathak and Sufi dance choreography in Qawaali style for the Ismaili Diamond Jubilee year. Through my dance journey, this year has been particularly special in that I've found a niche and a love for the exploration of spirituality in my art. Thank you to Alhamra Unplugged for collaborating with me on this piece that holds such a special place in my heart.
Diamond Jubilee Mubarak!

Music: Allah Hoo - Alhamra Unplugged Season 1 (Khalid Khan, Qasim Yousaf, Aqleema Dar, Abubakar Javed) (Check the song out at

/ allah-hoo-and-piya-ghar-aaya-1 )

Male Dancers: Rahim Printer (lead), Gowtham Ratnaraj, Aman Rajput, Irfan Lakhani, Arnold Wallang, Jassy Grewal
Female Dancers: Shereen Ladha (lead), Shaila Premji, Shama Kassam, Karina D'Mello, Zeeanna Ibrahim, Sahar Ibhrahim, Salima Fakirani
Videography: Anil Mohabir (Icon Motion)
Rahim's Costume: Chandan Fashion (@chandanfashion)

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10 Highlights From the Venice Biennale

Post by kmaherali »

A tour of the international exhibition, which opened last week and runs through November.

Photographs and Video by Jason Schmidt
Published April 24, 2024
Updated April 26, 2024

The Venice Biennale, the art world’s most prestigious exhibition, opened last week to some fanfare, some criticism and a number of protests. Viewers generally look to the Biennale as a reflection of its time, and this one arrived at a fraught moment in history defined by political unrest and distrust for traditional systems of power. (And not for nothing, Indigenous and African artists, historically underrepresented in Venice, are notably more visible than in previous iterations of the show.) Here, a look at some of the standouts from the 2024 edition.

Video ID 100000009427734
“Con i Miei Occhi (With My Eyes),” at the Holy See Pavilion.

The Holy See Pavilion

The Vatican’s Holy See Pavilion organized an exhibition based on the theme of human rights, titled “Con i Miei Occhi (With My Eyes),” at the Giudecca Women’s Detention Home, an active prison for female inmates. The show includes works by the feminist art collective Claire Fontaine, the Brazilian textile artist Sonia Gomes, the American artist Corita Kent and the Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan (whose new fresco “Father,” depicting a pair of wounded feet, graces the building’s facade), all of which contemplate, in some way, the desire for freedom. Several inmates are giving guided tours and, on April 28, Pope Francis will stop by, making him the first Pontiff in history to visit the Biennale.

ImageNine people pose for a photograph in an ornately decorated room with an orange and yellow artwork on the ceiling.
The artists and curator of the Nigeria Pavilion, from left: Fatimah Tuggar, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Aindrea Emelife, Onyeka Igwe, Tunji Adeniyi-Jones (whose work is visible on the ceiling), Abraham Oghobase, Ndidi Dike and (seated), Yinka Shonibare and Precious Okoyomon.

The Nigeria Pavilion

For the country’s second-ever pavilion in Venice, eight Nigerian artists installed site-specific works at the Palazzo Canal in a show organized by the London-based curator Aindrea Emelife. Their projects — including Yinka Shonibare’s replicas of the Benin Bronzes that were plundered by the British in the late 19th century, and a sculpture by Ndiki Dike commemorating protests against police in 2020 — look at the violence of colonial history, as well as charting a path out of it.

Video ID 100000009428813

Part of the artist Yuko Mohri’s installation “Compose” at the Japan Pavilion.

The Japan Pavilion

Sook-Kyung Lee, the director of the Whitworth gallery at Manchester University, organized this installation, titled “Compose,” by the Tokyo-based installation artist Yuko Mohri, known for working with ready-made materials and incorporating sound into her sculptures. Largely using objects sourced from grocery stores and flea markets around Venice, Mohri addresses issues of environmental collapse and sustainability. In one part of the show, called “Decomposition,” a series of hanging lights are connected to electrodes inserted into rotting pieces of fruit, whose moisture creates electric signals that power the bulbs. The fruit will eventually be composted.

A sculpture is displayed on the top of a plinth depicting a nude figure with a large head balancing on tiptoe making the peace sign with both hands with smoke emitting from the nose.
The artist Koo Jeong A with work from “Odorama Cities” at the South Korea Pavilion.

The South Korea Pavilion

The artist Koo Jeong A is representing South Korea at the Biennale with an original commission called “Odorama Cities.” The artist, who is known for exploring smell, worked with a Seoul-based perfumer in an attempt to capture the scents of the Korean Peninsula. The installation includes a bronze sculpture that emits a variety of fragrances based on more than 600 responses, which the artist gathered from people who live in or have visited Korea, to the question, “What is your scent memory of Korea?”

Video ID 100000009427728

Visitors walking past the closed Israel Pavilion.

The Israel Pavilion

The new-media artist and filmmaker Ruth Patir, working with the curators Tamar Margalit and Mira Lapidot, closed her already installed exhibition “M/otherland” at the Israel Pavilion on the day it was set to open in protest of the war in Gaza. Visitors to the show, which considers the idea of fertility, are greeted with a sign posted at the entrance that reads: “The artist and curators of the Israeli pavilion will open the exhibition when a cease-fire and hostage release agreement is reached.”

In a frescoed room, an art display resembling a pawnshop with a rack of guns.
The artist Christoph Büchel’s installation for the Fondazione Prada at Ca’ Corner della Regina.

The Fondazione Prada

At the Fondazione Prada’s venue, the 18th-century palazzo Ca’ Corner della Regina, the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel, perhaps best known for building a functional mosque at the 2015 Venice Biennale, has installed an immersive show called “Monte di Pietà” that explores the themes of debt and finance. (The show is named after a centuries-old money lender that used to operate in the same building.) In addition to a room showing CCTV footage seemingly from active war zones in Gaza and Kyiv, a collection of lab-grown diamonds and a stripper pole, the sprawling exhibition includes a fictitious bankrupt pawnshop.

A man in a black coat stands in front of an abstract artwork with arrows pointing in different directions.
The artist Jeffrey Gibson at the U.S. Pavilion.

The U.S. Pavilion

In his show “The Space in Which to Place Me,” the New York-based painter and sculptor Jeffrey Gibson, representing the United States, draws on themes of identity and Indigenous histories that he’s explored for much of his three-decade-long career. Included in the pavilion are sculptures, works on paper, videos and multimedia paintings that celebrate the artist’s Mississippi Choctaw and Cherokee heritage. There’s also a dance program featuring members of the Colorado Inter-Tribal Dancers and Oklahoma Fancy Dancers. Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States with a solo show at the Biennale.

A large installation in a dark room with walls covered by writing.
The artist Archie Moore’s exhibition “Kith and Kin” at the Australia Pavilion.

The Australia Pavilion

For his exhibition “Kith and Kin,” the Aboriginal artist Archie Moore has covered the walls of the Australia Pavilion with a meticulous chalk drawing of a First Nation family tree that calls upon some 65,000 years of the artist’s family history. In the center of the room, floating in a moat of water, are stacks of government documents that detail the deaths of Indigenous Australians in police custody. The work won the Golden Lion, the prize for the best national participation at the Biennale.

A woman wearing a purple jacket and brown pants is photographed through an oval metal sculpture with a glass ball at the base.
The artist Kapwani Kiwanga with her installation “Trinket” at the Canada Pavilion.

The Canada Pavilion

The Paris-based, Canadian-born artist Kapwani Kiwanga, who makes intricate installations concerned with the African diaspora and questioning the traditional canon, used small glass spheres called conterie, or Venetian seed beads, as the primary material for her installation “Trinket” at the Canada Pavilion. She strung together thousands of them, in a variety of colors, to create a dramatic, cumulative effect, turning the seemingly insignificant objects into something vast and dramatic.

Video ID 100000009427733

The Palazzo Grassi

At the 18th-century Palazzo Grassi, also the site of a retrospective by the painter Julie Mehretu, the multimedia artist Ryan Gander has installed an animatronic work subtle enough to miss if you aren’t paying close attention. Positioned just above the floor, it comprises a moving life-size model of a mouse, which seems to poke through the wall of the Venetian Classical-style building and philosophize about the inevitability of death and the struggle to find meaning in life. ... 778d3e6de3
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

At Venice Biennale, Artists Make a Case for Returning Looted Artifacts

For years, activists and politicians have led discussions about whether disputed museum objects should go back to their countries of origin. At this year’s Biennale, artists are entering the fray.

Work by Glicéria Tupinambá and her collaborators in the Brazil Pavilion at the 2024 Venice Biennale.Credit...Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

When Glicéria Tupinambá, an Indigenous Brazilian artist, first visited the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, she had an encounter that would change her life.

It was 2018 and museum officials had invited Glicéria — a member of the Tupinambá people — to see a mantle, or feathered cape, that her ancestors had made hundreds of years ago. Glicéria expected to simply study the artifact, she recalled in a recent interview. But upon seeing its plumage, she said, she started experiencing spectacular visions.

“Suddenly, I see myself facing an ancestor,” Glicéria recalled, “and this ancestor shows me images from the past, and speaks to me with this vast and female energy.”

Glicéria set out to learn everything she could about the capes, including how to make them herself. She also started a “treasure hunt,” to find other mantels that Europeans had obtained from her homeland, so that she could commune with them and, potentially, take some back to the Tupinambá in Bahia, Brazil.

For much of the past decade, restitution — the idea that Western museums should return contested artifacts to their countries of origin — has been a major topic of debate among museum administrators, lawmakers and activists. And while artists’ voices have not been as loud in those discussions, Glicéria is among several at this year’s Venice Biennale, the international art exhibition that runs through Nov. 24, showing work that draws focus to the issue.

A woman wearing a red dress and a blue feathered head dress.
Glicéria said that the restitution of feathered capes from European museum to Brazil would also “give hope for other peoples who are fighting the same fight — the battle to have their ancestors back.”Credit...Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times
In the Brazilian pavilion, Glicéria, 41, is exhibiting an intricate, multicolored mantle that she made with the help of other Tupinambá. Alongside the cape, which they constructed using 4,200 feathers, wall text explains that seven European museums still hold mantles in their collections. (Last year, Denmark’s National Museum announced that it would return one cape to Brazil, but it still holds others.)

In Nigeria’s pavilion, Yinka Shonibare has made intricate clay replicas of about 150 Benin Bronzes — priceless artifacts that, in 1897, British soldiers looted from what is now Nigeria, and are now found in numerous European and American collections. And at Benin’s pavilion, an installation by Chloé Quenum, a French-Beninese artist, includes glass sculptures of musical instruments that were taken from the Kingdom of Dahomey in what is now Benin and are now in the Quai Branly’s storerooms.

Yinka Shonibare’s clay replicas of Benin Bronzes in the Nigeria Pavilion.Credit...Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Work by Chloé Quenum in the Benin Pavilion.Credit...Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Azu Nwagbogu, the curator of the Benin pavilion, said that it was unsurprising that artists were making work about the hot topic of restitution. But he said that the Biennale artists were also trying to provoke wider questions, including about artifacts’ past and present meanings, and about the unequal power dynamic between Western countries and the Global South, including in the art world.

One artist group at the Biennale is even using a temporarily returned cherished artifact in its exhibition. The Dutch pavilion, partly curated by the Amsterdam-based artist Renzo Martens, features sculptures and films by an artists’ collective in the Democratic Republic of Congo whom Martens often works with. For the Biennale, the collective secured the loan of a wooden artifact from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The simple carved sculpture depicts Maximilien Balot, a Belgian colonial official who once forcibly recruited Congolese villagers to work on plantations. In 1931, during an uprising against colonial rule, some of the villagers killed Balot, then made a sculpture of him that they believed would trap his angry spirit. Decades later, a Western collector bought the sculpture and later sold it to the Virginia museum.

During the Biennale, the sculpture is on display at White Cube, an art space in Congo, and visitors to the Dutch pavilion in Venice can watch a livestream of the artifact in a case some 5,000 miles away. That distance and detachment, Martens said in an interview, puts Biennale visitors in the position that the Congolese were in before the object’s return.

“For the last 50 years, it’s only been available to Western audiences,” he said. “Now, it’s only available to people in the D.R.C.”

A picture spanning three tall windows shows a person looking at a wooden sculpture.
A film in the Netherlands’ pavilion showing Matthieu Kasiama and the Maximilien Balot sculpture, with a subtitle that reads, “People have to work and opportunities have to open up.”Credit...Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times

Matthieu Kasiama and Ced’Art Tamasala, two members of the Congolese collective, all of whom are former plantation workers themselves, said in an email exchange that the Balot’s temporary return had allowed their community “to reconnect with our ancestors” and their “spirit of resistance.” Now, the artists said, they wanted to use that spirit to “free ourselves from capitalist oppression.”

Kasiama and Tamasala said they were not pressing for the sculpture to be permanently displayed at the former Unilever-owned plantation where the collective is based. Instead, after the Biennale ends, they want it to travel to other plantations around the world to inspire resistance against international corporations. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon. A spokeswoman for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts said in an email that the Balot was merely on loan and would return to Richmond.

In Glicéria’s case, the restitution of any of her people’s capes would “spark a lot of joy” in Brazil, she said. It would also, she added, “give hope for other peoples who are fighting the same fight — the battle to have their ancestors back.” ... 778d3e6de3
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

Massive Fossil Donation Helps Brazil’s National Museum Rise From the Ashes

A gift from abroad of more than 1,100 Brazilian fossils aims to step up efforts to rebuild the country’s National Museum, which suffered major fire damage in 2018.


The well-preserved skull of a pterosaur, one of the fossils in an enormous donation made by the Swiss-German collector Burkhard Pohl to the Brazil National Museum.Credit...Handerson Oliveira/Museu Nacional/UFRJ

On the night of Sept. 2, 2018, a fire swept through the National Museum of Brazil, devastating the country’s oldest scientific institution and one of South America’s biggest and most important museums. On Tuesday, the museum announced that it received a major donation of ancient Brazilian fossils to help rebuild its collection ahead of a scheduled 2026 reopening.

Burkhard Pohl, a Swiss-German collector and entrepreneur who maintains one of the world’s largest private fossil collections, has handed over to the National Museum about 1,100 specimens, all of which originated in Brazil. The donation is the biggest and most scientifically important contribution yet to the museum’s rebuilding efforts, after the loss of 85 percent of its roughly 20 million specimens and artifacts in the fire.

The move also returns scientific treasure to a country that has often seen its natural heritage vanish beyond its borders — and presents a potential global model for building a natural history museum in the 21st century.

“The most important thing is to show to the world, in Brazil and outside Brazil, that we are uniting private people and public institutions,” Alexander Kellner, the National Museum’s director, said. “We want others to follow this example, if possible, to help us with this really herculean task.”

Far more than the public exhibits they host, natural history museums safeguard the world’s scientific and cultural heritage for future generations. The 2018 fire destroyed the National Museum’s entire collections of insects and spiders, as well as Egyptian mummies bought by the erstwhile Brazilian imperial family.

Burkhard Pohl and Frances Reynolds sit at a table in a stone and brick area of the Brazil National Museum while Alexander Kellner stands next to them and speaks to members of the press out of view. They all wear hard hats.
From left, Burkhard Pohl, the collector; Frances Reynolds, founder of the Instituto Inclusartiz; and Alexander Kellner, the National Museum’s director, during an announcement of the donation.Credit...Diogo Vasconcellos

The flames also consumed more than 60 percent of the museum’s fossils, including parts of a specimen that scientists used to identify Maxakalisaurus, a Brazilian long-necked dinosaur. The newly donated fossils include plants, insects, two dinosaurs that might represent new species and two exquisite skulls of pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that soared over dinosaurs’ heads. The donation also includes previously studied fossils, including the enigmatic reptile Tetrapodophis, which was identified as a “four-legged snake” in 2015 but is now thought to be an aquatic lizard.

Dr. Pohl, who comes from a family of art, mineral and fossil collectors, said his donations were meant to ensure that Brazil’s national museum, in Rio de Janeiro, has a comprehensive and accessible collection of the country’s own fossil heritage.

“A collection is an organism,” Dr. Pohl said in an interview. “If it’s locked away, it’s dead; it needs to live.”

Fossils in the collection include Brachyphyllum, a fossil plant; an unidentified insect; the well-preserved cranial crest of the pterosaur Tupandactylus imperator; and Tetrapodophis amplectus, a species originally described as a snake but which is now considered a representative of an extinct group of aquatic lizards.Credit...Instituto Inclusartiz; Handerson Oliveira/Museu Nacional/UFRJ; Handerson Oliveira/Museu Nacional/UFRJ; Instituto Inclusartiz

The bones provide snapshots of life in what is now northeastern Brazil between 115 million and 110 million years ago, when the region was a lake-dotted wetland frequently flooded by a young and growing Atlantic Ocean. Over time, these ancient bodies of water gave rise to the Crato and Romualdo Formations, limestone deposits in the Araripe Basin where quarries now dig for raw material to make cement. Impeccably preserved fossils lurk among the rocks, some of which formed as creatures’ bodies were rapidly covered in microbial muck along ancient shorelines, and then buried. Crato fossils were squished flat like pressed flowers; Romualdo fossils were entombed in nodules of stone.

Since 1942, Brazil has treated fossils as national property and strictly prohibited their commercial export. But for decades, Brazilian fossils from the Crato and Romualdo Formations have circulated in the global fossil market, sold into museum holdings and private collections around the world, including Dr. Pohl’s.

Brazilian paleontologists who were thrilled at the fossils’ return to their home country emphasized the research and training opportunities they represent — and the positive precedent it could help set for other donors. “It’s very positive to show to perhaps some other collectors that things can be done in a friendly manner,” said Taissa Rodrigues, a paleontologist at Brazil’s Federal University of Espírito Santo.

An aerial view of the Brazil National Museum with mountains in the distance and the sun low in the sky.
Ongoing repairs to the Brazil National Museum in Rio de Janeiro last year following the 2018 fire.Credit...Bruna Prado/Associated Press

The seeds for Dr. Pohl’s donation were planted in 2022, when Dr. Kellner met Frances Reynolds, the founder of a Brazilian arts nonprofit called the Instituto Inclusartiz. She quickly embraced the mission of rebuilding the National Museum’s collections, reaching out to a network of collectors to secure long-term loans and donations.

“If we people can help and don’t, then I can’t expect anything from anybody else,” Ms. Reynolds said. “It’s been a lot of work but an incredible experience.”

Ms. Reynolds learned of Dr. Pohl’s fossil collection through his son, who manages galleries owned by Dr. Pohl’s Interprospekt Group, a fossil and gem company based in Switzerland. A year of negotiation followed, and the fossils were shipped to Brazil in 2023; they are being housed in provisional facilities until the museum’s main building is restored.

In addition to the fossils, the National Museum is partnering with the Interprospekt Group to jointly conduct research in the United States. Last summer, a group of six Brazilian paleontologists and students traveled to Thermopolis, Wyo., where Dr. Pohl maintains a private fossil museum. There, the Brazilian team will help dig for fossils that may later join the National Museum’s collections.

Dr. Kellner and Ms. Reynolds are actively soliciting donations and collaborations, and international institutions are responding to the call. Last year, the National Museum of Denmark donated a red cloak of scarlet ibis feathers made by Brazil’s Tupinambá people, one of only 11 such artifacts remaining in the world. The museum is also working closely with Brazil’s Indigenous groups to rebuild the museum’s ethnographic collections.

“This could be a major turning point,” Dr. Kellner said. “It’s really something for the future of our people.” ... ation.html
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

Too Red, Too Vampiric, Too Sexy: A Brief History of Polarizing Royal Portraits

Jonathan Yeo’s painting of King Charles III has prompted both admiration and bemusement, but it’s far from the first royal portrait to divide opinion.

The artist Jonathan Yeo and King Charles III at the unveiling of Mr. Yeo’s portrait of the king at Buckingham Palace in London on Tuesday.Credit...Pool photo by Aaron Chown

Royal family members sit for portraits a lot. And even when they don’t, artists paint them anyway. Some of these portraits have drawn near-unanimous praise and stood the test of time, captivating viewers generations later. Others have attracted mixed reactions, scandal or controversy.

With some artworks, critics objected royals were too gloomy, too naked, or, in the case of King Charles III’s latest portrait, too red.

In the painting unveiled on Tuesday, Charles is enveloped in a cloud of crimson, hot pink and fuchsia.

The artist, Jonathan Yeo, told The New York Times in an interview last month that he got to know his subject over four sittings, beginning in 2021, when Charles was still Prince of Wales, and continuing after the coronation last May.

“Age and experience were suiting him,” Mr. Yeo said. “His demeanor definitely changed after he became king.”

“Life and death and bloodlines and damask. Wonderful,” wrote Jonathan Foyle, a British academic, on social media. But not everyone was as impressed.

One social media user said the king looked in the painting as if he was “burning in hell.” Others compared the work to the possessed portrait in the 1989 film “Ghostbusters II,” haunted by a medieval tyrant’s ghost.

“Has a portrait of a blue-blooded British monarch ever been so very pink?” Laura Freeman, The Times of London’s chief art critic, wrote. While she praised the face (“beautifully done”), saying that Mr. Yeo deserved a knighthood for it, she added, “and off to the Tower with the background to await a grisly execution.”

The Daily Telegraph’s art critic Alastair Sooke noted that “painting a monarch ranks among the toughest of artistic gigs” and concluded that one thing seemed certain: the portrait “will be remembered for its fluorescence.”

Here are other royal portraits, painted with less jaunty palettes, but in their own way, as surprising or contentious.

Kate: ‘Vampiric’

A softly detailed portrait of Catherine, Princess of Wales, against a dark background.
A portrait of Catherine, Princess of Wales, by Paul Emsley at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2013.Credit...Sang Tan/Associated Press

While some described the then Duchess of Cambridge’s first official portrait as natural and human, the reception that greeted Paul Emsley’s soft and diaphanous 2012 painting of the former Kate Middleton — now Catherine, Princess of Wales — was marked by harsh criticism.

The Guardian’s culture writer Charlotte Higgins said it was like “something unpleasant from the Twilight franchise,” referring to the brooding vampire romance movies. She decried the Duchess’s “vampiric, malevolent glare beneath heavy lids,” which give the portrait a “sepulchral gloom.”

That was not the worst feedback the portrait received.

Michael Glover of The Independent called the portrait “catastrophic.”

According to British Vogue, Mr. Emsley said that the attacks were so nasty at first that “there was a point where I myself doubted that the portrait of the duchess was any good.”

But British newspapers quoted Kate as telling the artist that she found the portrait “amazing. Absolutely brilliant.”

Queen Elizabeth II: ‘Decapitated’

A man in a bright tie next to a yellow canvas on which Queen Elizabeth appears with her head separated from her green dress.
Justin Mortimer with his portrait of Queen Elizabeth II at the Blue Gallery in London in 1998.Credit...Fiona Hanson/Press Association, via Alamy

“The queen had already been decapitated, albeit on canvas, by her latest portrait painter,” the BBC wrote when Justin Mortimer painted Queen Elizabeth II on a yellow background with her head floating away from her body.

The artist, who was 27 when he was commissioned to paint the portrait by the Royal Society of Arts after winning the National Portrait Gallery’s portrait award in 1991, told the BBC he had aimed for the painting to be “fresh and funky.”

Some loved it, but many Britons did not get the joke.

“‘Silly’ artist cuts off the queen’s head,” The Daily Mail wrote.

Mr. Mortimer told The New York Times that after the Queen sat for him, “I ended up basically taking out her neck” to be “cheeky.”

“I knew people would bring ideas, like, ‘Cut off her head!’ to it,” he said. “I didn’t go in as a raging republican. I just wanted to suggest this vein of unease about the royal family at the time.”

Prince Philip: Shirtless

An image of Prince Philip, shirtless, with a fly on his shoulder and cress emerging from a raised finger.
Stuart Pearson Wright’s portrait of Prince Philip.Credit...Kimberly White/Reuters

In a 2003 portrait by Stuart Pearson Wright, Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, stands bare chested with a bluebottle on one shoulder and a sprout of cress growing out of his index finger.

The painting was initially commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts to honor their Philip as its president, and he sat for it, but the final result was deemed “inappropriate,” the artist told the BBC. He was asked to come up with a smaller version that only focused on the prince’s face, which is now on view at the Royal Society of Arts.

Mr. Pearson Wright told the BBC that when he showed the prince the work in progress and asked if he thought it resembled him, Philip told him, “I bloody well hope not.”

The portrait is titled “Homo sapiens, Lepidium sativum and Calliphora vomitoria”: a wise man, some cress and a bluebottle. Prince Philip did not strip off during the sitting, Mr. Wright told The Guardian, explaining that he had based the hairy chest on that of an older man in East London.

Queen Victoria: ‘Sexy’

An oval portrait of a young Queen Victoria, hair down and shoulders bare.
An 1843 portrait of Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.Credit...Royal Collection Trust

“Victorian” is often used as a synonym for prudishness and modesty, but in a 1843 portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, the queen is far from buttoned up.

In the oil painting, a lock of Victoria’s hair falls lavishly over her uncovered shoulder as she leans against a red cushion, gazing into the distance with her mouth slightly open.

Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband, kept the painting in his private writing room at Windsor Castle until his death, and the portrait was considered to be too overtly sexual to be shown to the public until 1977, according to The Telegraph.

The Daily Mail called the portrait, which Victoria gave Albert as a surprise 24th birthday present, a “sexy picture.” The Royal Collection Trust, which manages the royal art collection, deems it “alluring,” and says it was Albert’s favorite portrait of Victoria.

“I felt so happy and proud to have found something that gave him so much pleasure,” Victoria wrote in her diary.

Henry VIII: Codpieced

King Henry VIII, elaborately dressed.
A portrait of King Henry VIII, believed to be a copy of a work by Hans Holbein the Younger, at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England.Credit...Corbis, via Getty Images

In the 1530s, Hans Holbein the Younger painted a majestic portrait of Henry VIII in which the monarch dominates his surroundings, his feet planted apart, his body draped in furs and golden cloth. The painting, now lost, was copied widely at the time and is acknowledged as a masterpiece of royal iconography. But one detail in particular tends to draw the eye of modern observers.

Among all the finery and symbols of grandeur, Henry’s padded codpiece seems designed to arrest the viewer’s attention.

Codpieces, the pieces of cloth that Renaissance men wore over their crotches, sometimes decorated with silk, velvets and bows, initially served a protective purpose, but they became exaggerated in a game of one-upmanship, according to BBC History Magazine.

“What better way to assert your masculinity than by having a mighty codpiece bulge out of the center of your portrait like a 3-D object?” Evan Puschak, an art and culture critic, said.

“Henry VIII remains the poster boy for codpieces,” The New Yorker wrote.

Emma Bubola is a Times reporter based in London, covering news across Europe and around the world. More about Emma Bubola ... 778d3e6de3
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Art Seeks Enlightenment in Darkness

Post by kmaherali »

Many artists are dimming the lights of their museum shows, for a mix of symbolic and spiritual reasons.

Kehinde Wiley’s “An Archaeology of Silence” exhibition, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, addresses “the silence surrounding systemic violence and injustice.”Credit...The artist and Galerie Templon; photo MFA Houston

This article is part of our Museums special section about how institutions are striving to offer their visitors more to see, do and feel.

To enter Kehinde Wiley’s show “An Archaeology of Silence” is to step into darkness, where only the art itself seems to emit light. The space feels somewhere between a crypt and a cathedral, featuring paintings and bronze sculptures of reclining Black bodies, spread out in repose or entombed like corpses, that appear to glow from within.

The show, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, culminates with a monumental sculpture of a fallen man on horseback, draped over the horse as if he had just been shot, his Nikes dangling below the saddle. Made in the year after George Floyd was killed by the police in Minneapolis, this monument — and more broadly, the show as a whole — confronts the “legacy and scope of anti-Black violence,” according to Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

ImageA large painting hanging in a dark gallery. The painting, which shows a Black man prone on a grassy patch with a colorful patterned background.
Wiley’s “Femme Piquée par un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye),” 2022, demonstrates his use of light amid darkness. Credit...The artist and Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; photo via M.F.A., Houston

While his particular blend of the contemporary and historical is all his own, Wiley is just one of several artists working these days to stage dramatically dark exhibitions. Across the country, visual artists are plunging visitors into museum spaces where you can hardly make out the wall labels in front of you, and not just for film and video.

In Southern California, Betye Saar has powerfully dimmed the lights for a new installation at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, “Drifting Toward Twilight,” which simulates the stages of nightfall. And for his show “Elegy,” which recently closed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Dawoud Bey created a moody, nearly funereal environment for his black-and-white landscape photographs, taken on or near sites associated with the Underground Railroad and the Richmond Slave Trail.

Other examples appear on the commercial gallery front, from Anselm Kiefer’s brooding paintings in “Exodus,” presented by Gagosian at the Marciano Art Foundation last year, to Tavares Strachan’s multipart racial excavation “Magnificent Darkness” at Marian Goodman this spring — both ambitious historical reckonings. Without going pitch black, which would create visitor accessibility and safety issues as well as obscure the artworks, these artists are finding ways to evoke darkness with a range of symbolic, psychological and spiritual overtones.

A bronze statue of a shirtless contemporary man wearing tight pants and large boots. He is prone on the ground, with his right arm outstretched.
Wiley’s “The Virgin Martyr Cecilia (Ndey Buri)” (2021), a bronze sculpture, lies in darkness but is illuminated. It is in stark contrast to the two colorful paintings that are almost glowing in the background.Credit...Kehinde Wiley and Galerie Templon; photo by M.F.A., Houston

The most obvious implication of all these darkened exhibitions is that we are living in dark times, which is hard to refute. But artists and curators involved say it’s more nuanced than that, and these shows are not simply an expression of grief or mourning.

“What I wanted to do is create almost a kind of religious feeling,” Wiley wrote in the catalog for his “Archaeology” show. The lighting “compels you to encounter the works with a degree of devotion or reverence,” added Claudia Schmuckli, who curated a version of the exhibition at the de Young in San Francisco last year, following the works’ debut in Venice. (The American version will continue its tour after Houston to the Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.) “It inscribes the artwork in a context of sacredness.”

As for the impression that Wiley’s artworks are lit from within, Schmuckli said that was just an illusion. In actuality, fixtures known as “framing projectors” are used to focus the light within the perimeter of a particular canvas and avoid spillage or shadows. Given their brilliant colors and this precise lighting, the paintings achieve some of the luminosity of stained glass.

A museum exhibition displaying a canoe on a bed of twigs and wood in a dimly lit, blue-tinted room. On the canoe are sets of antlers, bird cages and Windsor chairs.
Betye Saar’s installation “Drifting Toward Twilight,” at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, is set in a dimly lit, blue-tinted room.Credit...Betye Saar, via the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; Photo by Joshua White

Saar, too, used spiritual terms in discussing her installation, which occupies its own blue-tinted room deep in the American art building at the Huntington and runs through Nov. 30, 2025. It features a 17-foot-long wooden canoe from the 1940s, painted emerald green and set on a bed of branches and twigs that the artist made by collecting a dozen different plant species from the Huntington grounds. The boat carries a bizarre group of passengers: two carved wooden creatures sporting tall antlers and three metal bird cages containing antlers.

While the canoe doesn’t actually move, it takes a journey through time as the room’s lighting cycles every eight minutes through different hues, approximating the sun rising and setting. Most striking is the moment when the canoe is bathed in a dusky blue-violet glow, like a portal to another realm.

//The Museums Special Section
//Dark Awakening: Many artists are dimming the lights of their museum shows, for a mix of symbolic and spiritual reasons. ... nks_recirc
//A Story Told in 183 Canvases: A 122-foot-long painting by Noah Saterstrom explores mental illness. ... nks_recirc
//Striking a Balance: In a biennial between two museums on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border, artists tell fresh stories of their homeland. ... nks_recirc
//Exploring History: In North Miami, the Haitian artist Manuel Mathieu weaves the personal and the political. ... nks_recirc
//More on Museums: Institutions are striving to offer their visitors more to see, do and feel. ... nks_recirc

“Twilight is the magical time, we know that,” said the artist, who is 97 and compared her artwork’s lighting cycle to a human life cycle. “That’s when nothing is definite, it’s always changing, that’s the way life is.”

A woman with short white hair, wearing a black tunic, gray top and black pants, standing alongside a piece of art made up of a canoe, antlers and bird cages.
The artist Betye Saar, 97, next to an installation piece, “Drifting Toward Twilight.” The canoe journeys through time as lighting cycles every eight minutes through different hues, approximating the sun rising and setting. Credit...Betye Saar, via the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; Photo by Joshua White/

Yinshi Lerman-Tan, who co-curated this installation for the Huntington, explained that there were 27 lights in this room, 20 of which were programmed to change, and four different colors creating a gradient on the walls, starting with a “Galapagos Turquoise” at the bottom. She compares entering the room to walking into a James Whistler or J.M.W. Turner painting that delivers “this atmospheric space between ocean and sky.”

Betye is harnessing the other world of the cosmos and the other world of the ocean or sea,” she continued. “Those have both been career-long interests in her work.”

“My job is to create a space where the spirit can be aware,” said Saar, who has long used lighting to transport her viewers into different realms. She said she first learned “how important theatrical lighting is in setting the mood” when designing costumes for the theater in the late 1960s.

An exhibition space nearly darkened except for lights focused on two landscape paintings on the far wall. Through a door between the paintings is another black-and-white landscape photo.
For his recent show “Elegy” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Dawoud Bey created a moody environment for his black-and-white landscape photographs, taken on or near sites associated with the Underground Railroad and the Richmond Slave Trail.Credit...Dawoud Bey, via Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; photo by Sandra Sellars

For Bey, controlling a room’s lighting offers a way of creating “emotional weight,” he said. The first time he dramatically transformed a space in this way was in 2021 for his survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art, for both aesthetic and practical reasons, including a desire to play video alongside photography. “It was a revelation to me,” he said. “The whole thing looked good, and there was quietude in that space that resulted. It creates a more contemplative experience. It heightens the individual drama of the work and encourages you to linger longer.”

To achieve this effect, though, Bey typically does not have to adjust the museum lighting levels much at all. Rather, he has the walls painted a rich, inky black that absorbs light, a Benjamin Moore color called Black Panther. “Once the light is not bouncing around the room, you don’t have to fine-tune the lighting as much — it’s a lot easier for the lighting crew actually,” Bey said.

He did this most recently for part of his show “Elegy” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which culminated in the darkly toned, lushly printed gelatin-silver landscapes that make up “Night Coming Tenderly, Black,” the series that imaginatively follows the path of the Underground Railroad, set against Black Panther. Valerie Cassel Oliver, the curator of “Elegy,” said there was an unintended visual effect in that gallery — the white photographic borders were reflected on the museum floors — but even that seemed richly symbolic. The visual echo, she said, “played into the sense that there was this glowing light of freedom, of self-emancipation, after the enslaved came through the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade into this laborious life under bondage on these plantations.”

Two dark rooms in a gallery. In each hang black-and-white photos that are precisely lit so they stand out against the darkness.
The lighting for Bey’s “Elegy” exhibition contributed to its reflective mood, and his theme centered on the American slave experience. Credit...Dawoud Bey, via Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; photo by Sandra Sellars

The idea that an artist’s vision might extend beyond the picture frame to include lighting can be a challenge for the most traditional, or hierarchical, museums. “Museum spaces are usually the purview of the exhibition design team working with the curator, and the artist is seldom involved,” Bey said. “Generally speaking, they like everybody to stay in their own lane.”

But that much is changing, said Bey, who was also able to work with the Getty to darken walls for a joint show with Carrie Mae Weems in 2023 and who notes that museums have become “much more receptive to artists” in recent years. Cassel Oliver agreed: “We know that encyclopedic museums have been risk-averse, but they are evolving and becoming a wonderful platform for living artists as well.”

In effect, these museums are following in the footsteps of alternative institutions, which have a long history of ceding control to contemporary artists to remake a space, floor to ceiling. For instance, when the Colombia-based artist Delcy Morelos requested skylights be covered for the first room of her exhibition “El abrazo” at Dia Chelsea, running until July 20, it wasn’t a huge ask, she said. “Dia is a very special institution when it comes to supporting artists — they never put a limit on me creatively.”

A cave-like room. Soil covers the floors, the stacks of lumber strewn about and part of the walls.
The artist Delcy Morelos was able to control the lighting at Dia Chelsea for “Cielo terrenal” (2023) and used darkness as a tool or “material” to sharpen visitors’ other senses, like smell.Credit...Victor Llorente for The New York Times

Morelos also kept artificial light to a minimum, only to be used at the end of day in a space she covered with nutrient-rich soil. The soil coats the floors, stacks of lumber and part of the walls—up to the water-mark created by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In this case, Morelos said darkness was a tool or “material” she used to sharpen visitors’ other senses, like smell, so they’re more receptive for example to the scents of the moist earth, cinnamon and cloves embedded in the work.

Explaining the decision, she said through a translator: “Senses that are dormant when you have a lot of light will awaken, perhaps because of the sense of danger.” She compared her space to a “symbolic but also real” dreamscape as well as to a womb, describing a “fertile obscurity.”

“Seeds need darkness to germinate,” she added. Or, as James Baldwin once wrote, “One discovers the light in darkness, that is what darkness is for; but everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light.”

This comment was published in a 1964 book that Baldwin made with the photographer Richard Avedon. It also appeared this year at the Marian Goodman Gallery in Los Angeles, spelled out in flickering neon by the artist Tavares Strachan and placed prominently at the entrance of a dimly lit gallery, where his paintings and sculptures look like beacons in the night.

Jori Finkel is a reporter who covers art from Los Angeles. She is also the West Coast contributing editor for The Art Newspaper and author of “It Speaks to Me: Art that Inspires Artists.” More about Jori Finkel ... kness.html
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »


DanceAfrica Brings Cameroon to Brooklyn

It’s a tradition: Every year, DanceAfrica at the Brooklyn Academy of Music focuses on a different country and its dance traditions.

When Abdel Salaam, the festival’s artistic director, was casting about for a country to spotlight this year, he realized that his many trips to Africa had never taken him to Cameroon.

He booked his tickets and was mesmerized — and not just by the dancers he saw and met. He called the trip “a life-changing encounter,” despite muddy roads and fire ants along the way.

And so Cameroon became the focus for the DanceAfrica Festival 2024, the nation’s largest festival of African dance — and, BAM likes to say, Brooklyn’s unofficial start to summer. Performances, under the overall title of “The Origin of Communities: A Calabash of Cultures,” begin tonight at 7:30 p.m. and continue through the weekend.

The festival is an exploration of Central African history, as symbolized by the calabash — a vessel with both mystical and practical significance in African culture. There will also be classes and dance workshops starting tomorrow. FilmAfrica, a companion festival, will include a conversation with the director Jean-Pierre Dikongué-Pipa on Saturday at 2 p.m. His film “Muna Moto” was credited with bringing Cameroonian cinema to global audience in the 1970s.

And DanceAfrica Bazaar, which spills into the streets around BAM with more than 150 vendors, opens at noon tomorrow, Sunday and Monday.

“The thing that’s captivating about Cameroon as much as dancing was the rainforest, supposedly the origin of humanity,” Salaam said. Deep in the hot and humid forest are mahogany and ebony trees that can grow more than 200 feet tall.

“Everything is dedicated to the preservation of the rainforest,” he said. “If the rainforests around the Equator disappear, that’s the oxygen belt for the planet. It’s bye-bye.”

Siren - Protectors of the Rainforest, a Brooklyn-based company led by the Cameroon-born Mafor Mambo Tse, will perform. Salaam said that Siren “preserves, promotes and presents knowledge passed down through generations” — a constant for DanceAfrica, no matter what country is in the spotlight.

DanceAfrica has also partnered with Spirit Walkers, the Women of the Calabash, The Billie’s Youth Arts Academy Dance Ensemble, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts and the DanceAfrica Council of Elders.

Salaam said that what sets Cameroonian dance apart are the rhythms — and the sound. The drums from the rainforest are made from trees and logs and are pitched lower than West African drums. “It’s not the same sonic value,” he said. “It’s not the same volume. The dancing moves in concert with those sounds. A lot of torso work. Arms and fiery feet.”

It is impossible to mention DanceAfrica without mentioning Chuck Davis, who founded the festival and was its artistic director until 2015. Davis was long considered America’s foremost master of African dance. He died in 2017, but his emphasis on community has continued, which means that audience members at DanceAfrica can “rarely expect to sit passively,” as Margalit Fox wrote in The New York Times in 2017. “Some might be called onstage to take part in the dancing; all, by festival’s end, would have joined Davis in reciting, ‘Peace, love and respect for everybody,’ the phrase that had long been his mantra.”

“As long as you’re dancing together,” Davis used to say, “you have no time for hatred.”

WEEKEND WEATHER ... 778d3e6de3
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

The Ancient Art of Calligraphy Is Having a Revival

Video: ... _1080p.mp4

Calligraphy, which means “beautiful writing” in Ancient Greek, is seeing a surge of interest from younger people who say it offers a meditative and creative escape.

For the first time in many years, a teacher was correcting my handwriting.

“Go more slowly,” Laura Edralin, a calligraphy teacher in London, told me, as she walked around a table of beginners on a recent Wednesday night, explaining how to achieve even, flowing strokes.

As a breaking news reporter for The New York Times, I am not used to being told to slow down, nor am I accustomed to writing by hand. But both those new to the medium and seasoned calligraphers say the deliberate, steady nature of the practice is a huge part of its appeal — one that is on the upswing. With so much digital fatigue, writing elegantly with pen and paper can be a joy.

Calligraphy, a centuries-old art form, is seeing a surge of interest, including among young people more familiar with coding than cursive. At Michael’s, the largest arts and crafts chain in North America, more than 10,000 customers signed up for lettering classes online between January 2023 and March 2024 — nearly three times more than in the same period a year ago, when about the same number of classes were offered.

An increase in calligraphy-related posts on social media and the popularity of online classes may have helped drive the trend. On TikTok, where users can find how-to videos or watch clips of experienced calligraphers at work, 63 percent more posts used #calligraphy in April 2024 than in April 2023, according to TikTok. And on Instagram, top calligraphy influencers such as Nhuan Dao in Ha Noi, Vietnam, and Paola Gallegos in Cusco, Peru, have 2 million or more followers apiece (on TikTok, Gallegos has 9 million).

Rajiv Surendra, a calligrapher and actor (best known as the math M.C. Kevin G. in the 2004 film “Mean Girls”), said he was surprised to find that his how-to calligraphy videos were some of the most popular posts on his YouTube channel; one video on calligraphy basics has garnered more than 840,000 views.

In this digital age, “we have come so far away from consciously thinking about how to form a ‘w’ — and how to form a beautiful ‘w,’” he said in a recent interview. For that reason, he explained, now more than ever, people are craving the ability to bring intention and care not just to what they write, but to how they write it.

He has seen this reflected in the response to his videos: A woman in Denmark recently told him, in a handwritten letter, that they had inspired her to start practicing calligraphy with her grandfather’s fountain pen.

Image“The beauty of the confident stroke” written in calligraphy in black ink. A hand on the right holds a pen at the end of the final stroke of the double quote.

Calligraphy dates back to before the 1st century A.D., said Dr. Chia-Ling Yang, a Chinese art history professor at the University of Edinburgh. By the 10th century, good brushwork had become known in China as a sign of good character. Separate traditions also developed with roots in other parts of East Asia and the Middle East.

In Europe, the introduction of the printing press in the mid-15th century paved the way for a distinction between handwriting and more stylized scripts. Calligraphy in Europe experienced a decline in the 19th century, with the advent of the typewriter, but it continued to be used for official documents and scholarly purposes. “What is the same in all practices of calligraphy, regardless of the language, is the beauty of the confident stroke,” Mr. Surendra said.

Today, part of calligraphy’s appeal is its accessibility: Anyone with a pen and paper can give it a go. Ms. Edralin, the London calligraphy teacher, took up the practice in 2017 as a way to cope with anxiety from a demanding job. Other than a few classes in high school, she had never really pursued art — certainly not professionally — but she lost herself in the beauty of crafting strokes into letters, and letters into words. “I could scratch the creative itch that I knew was in me, but it didn’t require me to sit at an easel for weeks on end,” she said.

Practicing calligraphy helped make Ms. Edralin aware of self-critical thoughts that had become ingrained in her internal dialogue. “If that’s happening day in and day out in everything you’re doing, it’s really hard to spot,” she said. Now, when she hears students criticizing themselves or wanting to give up halfway through a word, she encourages them to embrace imperfection and revel in the thrill of learning something new — lessons she hopes they can apply to other parts of their lives, she said.

Written in calligraphy: “Some people do yoga, but I do calligraphy.”

Like Ms. Edralin, Amanda Reid, a calligrapher in Austin, Texas, began experimenting with calligraphy both as a creative outlet and as a way to ease stress — in her case, from a graduate degree she was pursuing in physical therapy. She started her own calligraphy business in 2019, taking commissions and teaching workshops, and it grew quickly during the coronavirus pandemic, when people were at home with time to learn new skills online, she said.

For Ms. Reid, crafting elegant words with her pens is not just an artistic practice, but a physical one, with a meditative rhythm of upstrokes and downstrokes. “Some people do yoga,” she said. “But I do calligraphy.”

Some preliminary studies suggest that working with your hands — whether by writing, knitting or drawing — can improve cognition and mood, and a study published in January by researchers in Norway found that writing by hand was beneficial for learning and engaged the brain more than typing on a keyboard. Some states, including California and New Hampshire, have begun reintroducing cursive (long regarded as obsolete in a digital age) into their curriculums, citing it as important for intellectual development.

The new emphasis on cursive comes even as researchers are developing products that will use artificial intelligence to replicate handwriting based on just a small sample of written material, Bloomberg reported.

Even with technological advances on the horizon, Ravi Jain, who attended the recent calligraphy class in London, said the beauty of calligraphy surpasses what any computer-generated letters could achieve. “Nothing will replace the amount of love, patience and time that goes into creating something by hand,” said Mr. Jain, 27, a data analyst at Credit Karma. “I know that the cards I give last a lot longer than a text message.” ... vival.html
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Re: General Art & Architecture of Interest

Post by kmaherali »

Cleveland Museum of Art to Return a Rare Ancient Icon to Libya

A 2,200-year-old sculpture of a bearded man carved from basalt, unearthed in the 1930s, is believed to have been stolen in the early 1940s.

On Wednesday, after reviewing abundant proof that the item was stolen from Libya, the Cleveland Museum of Art agreed to transfer ownership to Libyan officials.Credit...via The Cleveland Museum of Art
Tom Mashberg
By Tom Mashberg

While excavating an ancient Greek palace in eastern Libya in the 1930s, an archaeologist dug up a large earthen storage jar, looked inside and spotted something unexpected — a 2,200-year-old sculpture of a bearded man carved from basalt, a dark volcanic stone.

The two-foot-tall antiquity, most likely chiseled during ancient Egypt’s Ptolemaic Dynasty, was a rare find. Known as a striding male figure, it is one of only 33 statues like it known to exist, Egyptologists say.

But it wasn’t long before thieves got ahold of the bearded figure and took it on an illicit odyssey that brought it, in 1991, to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

On Wednesday, after curators had reviewed abundant proof that the item was stolen from Libya, including photos of it on display in the 1940s at a small museum near its discovery site, the museum agreed to transfer ownership to Libyan officials. In turn, Libya is allowing the museum to keep it on loan.

“When confronting a situation like this we look at all the material and try to come to an agreement that is beneficial to all parties,” said Seth Pevnick, curator of Greek and Roman art at the Cleveland museum.

“It’s less about ownership and more about access” to the object, he said, adding that the museum is hoping to display it on loan for five more years.

In a statement, the head of the Libyan Department of Antiquities, Mohamed Faraj Mohamed, said, “We look forward to continued cooperation with the Museum.”

A statue made of basalt rock which is almost black, of a man with defined features and an arm to his side and one around his front. He is standing on a base.
The two-foot-tall statue, chiseled during ancient Egypt’s Ptolemaic Dynasty, was a rare find. It was discovered in the 1930s in a large earthenware storage jar.Credit...via The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland museum’s decision mirrors recent moves by some institutions to cede ownership of select items rather than contest claims that they were looted. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in April handed back two major sculptures to Thailand, while announcing “a shared commitment to collaborate on exchanges of art, expertise, and the display and study of Thai art.”

But experts like Katie Paul of the Athar Project, which investigates global antiquities trafficking, said too few museums are showing a willingness to return items on their own initiative, and too many do not act until they are pressured by law enforcement.

“Returning something that is proven to be stolen is of course appropriate,” she said, “but they still need to be more proactive in investigating their own provenance records.”

“So museums are taking a small step in the right direction,” Paul added. “But there are a lot more steps to go before we see true responsibility and accountability.”

As for the striding male, his journey most likely began between 200 and 100 B.C., when he was carved as an icon during a long era of Greco-Roman rule over Egypt.

He remained in the region until just before World War II, when his storage jar was found. Pevnick said he might have been “put there for safekeeping.”

The sculpture was placed in the nearby Ptolemais Museum, only to be stolen in the early 1940s when the region became a war zone between the Italians and the British. The statue reappeared in Switzerland in the early 1960s, researchers say, and was ultimately acquired by the art dealer Lawrence A. Fleischman.

Fleischman donated him to the Cleveland museum in 1991 on its 75th anniversary. He will remain there in a display case until Libyan officials retrieve him. ... 778d3e6de3

Delays and Allegations Cool Off Africa’s Hottest Art Event

But the cultural faithful are undeterred, pressing on with side exhibitions after the postponement of the official biennale in Dakar, Senegal.

Visitors and artists gathering on Trames Agency’s rooftop in downtown Dakar, Senegal, during OFF, a smorgasbord of exhibitions and parties that is going on despite the absence of the official biennale.Credit...Carmen Abd Ali for The New York Times

Artists were putting the final touches to their works. Visitors had bought tickets long in advance. Everyone was counting on a big splash for the 15th edition of the event rapidly becoming Africa’s most prominent cultural gathering — the biennale in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, which had been set to start on May 16.

So when the West African country’s new government postponed Dak’Art at the last minute, saying it wanted to wait to hold it in optimum conditions, the African art world initially responded with dismay. The delay until November would mean less traffic through exhibitions and fewer sales, hurting a crop of up-and-coming African artists, many observers felt.

Just when the artists had regrouped, vowing to plow ahead in May with the smorgasbord of side events and exhibitions known as OFF despite the absence of the official biennale, a Ghanaian artist made accusations of sexual assault against the creator of the city’s biggest show, the American painter Kehinde Wiley. Wiley had been out on the town, opening an exhibition of his portraits of African heads of state at Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations, and showcasing the work of his protégées at his Black Rock art residency. By the time the accusations dropped in an Instagram post on May 19, Wiley had left the scene, having traveled to New York the previous day. He issued a denial, calling the claims “not true and an affront to all victims of sexual abuse.”

A woman in a gallery looks at a large painting of a seated man in colorfully patterned robes, with red curtains bordering the top of the image.
A portrait of Nana Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana, in Kehinde Wiley’s solo exhibition “A Maze of Power” in the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar.Credit...Carmen Abd Ali for The New York Times

The allegations hampered — but did not kill — West African artists’ valiant attempts to keep up momentum around OFF and assure those planning to fly in that, even without the official biennale, there would be plenty to justify a trip to the city, surrounded by the turquoise Atlantic, at Africa’s westernmost tip.

The faithful still came.

Artists hung paintings from trees, converted the walls of stores and restaurants into galleries, and filled some of Dakar’s run-down architectural gems with installations — piles of rubble, pieces of pirogue boats, a tennis court. Visitors zoomed around town in yolk-yellow ramshackle taxis, each one a work of art in itself, and dressed up in their best bazin and pagne tissé — colorful African fabrics — to attend a full program of exhibition launch parties. It helped that the Partcours, a collection of artistic events in galleries around town, kept its programming for mid-May to mid-June, as planned.

On a recent afternoon at Selebe Yoon, an airy gallery space in a quiet street of Dakar’s downtown, Tam Sir, a young man in a tank top that read “Installing Muscles. Please Wait,” was showing a slow stream of visitors around a series of installations by the Senegalese-Mauritanian film director and artist Hamedine Kane.

A video loop of a desolate shore was projected through glistening water-filled beads scattered on a well-worn floor; balanced on the painted boards of a deconstructed wooden boat were dozens of the jerrycans used to carry gas for ocean journeys.

Red gas cans are arranged on wooden posts and boards inside a gallery space.
A pontoon made from fragments of wood recovered from the coastline by the artist Hamedine Kane, on view at Selebe Yoon Art Gallery, in Dakar, during the OFF events. The installation includes red gas cans used for boats.Credit...Carmen Abd Ali for The New York Times

Kane’s theme was the effects of industrial international fishing on local fishing communities, where many risk their lives on rickety boats to Europe as a result in their search for new jobs. Living a few minutes from Dakar’s busiest fishing beach, Sir knew firsthand the devastation and the hard choices his generation had to make, and tried to convey it to viewers, including a party of teens from a local school.

“Here, when you’re young, you carry the hopes of a family,” he said, explaining why, when thousands of Senegalese die at sea each year trying to migrate, his contemporaries still tried to make it. “They’re often pushed to go by considerations of honor.”

Piles of rubble are seen carefully arranged in a courtyard. Some words are visible: “Myriads of ruins,” and “Foundations are ruins.”
The exhibition “Unreclaimed” by the French artist Emmanuel Tussore at OH Gallery uses ubiquitous Senegalese materials to evoke a war zone.Credit...Carmen Abd Ali for The New York Times

A visitor in pink looks at an art installation made up of bits of fabric and other objects suspended in colored netting.
The work “Holding On a Little Longer” (2023) by the Nigerian artist Samuel Nnorom in the collective exhibition “Encounters” at Black Rock, the artists’ residency founded by Wiley. Samuel ties in cast-off fabrics with political conditions and neocolonialism.Credit...Carmen Abd Ali for The New York Times

Nearby at OH Gallery, another installation — this one by the French artist Emmanuel Tussore — evoked more despair, using ubiquitous Senegalese materials to create a war zone reminiscent of scenes from Gaza, in Dakar’s first “modern” building, a colonial-era bank. Visitors picked their way around body bags fashioned out of cement sacks and rubble; a piano looked as if a bomb had hit it; a round fountain had broken glass for water and bore the circular inscription “foundations are ruins are foundations are ruins.”

Several colorful paintings on the pink walls of a gallery. At right is a triptych with a central figure whose hair spills out onto the other two canvases.
The exhibition “Strange Flesh” by a Ghanaian artist, Na Chainkua Reindorf, at Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, one of many OFF events.Credit...Carmen Abd Ali for The New York Times

A short walk away, at Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, sickly-sweet pink walls clashed intentionally with high-saturation paintings by Na Chainkua Reindorf, dominated by the escapades of a woman’s serpentine braids. In one triptych, figures hid behind two dense curtains of hair, only their bright pink arms and feet showing.

As always with OFF, the offerings were eclectic, and Dakar’s stylish, beachy backdrop was as much an attraction as the works on show. With a new, youthful president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 44, at the country’s helm, the shows added to the optimism in the Senegalese air.

The absence of the headline exhibitions at the former Palace of Justice was felt, though. The crowds have been thinner, and the whole affair less the nonstop party conjured in previous years, when many combined the biennale with a weekend at the annual jazz festival in the biggest city in Senegal’s north, Saint Louis, known as Ndar in the dominant Wolof language.

But with the official biennale still to come, this month’s shows are, perhaps, a warm-up for the delayed main event in November — when Dakar can do it all again. ... 778d3e6de3
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