Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, April 6, 2016


Testing of Vancouver Art Gallery’s J.E.H. MacDonald paintings to begin.  A year after the Vancouver Art Gallery proudly announced receiving a major donation of sketches by Group of Seven founding member J.E.H. MacDonald, the paintings will soon undergo testing at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa.  Globe & Mail, April 1, 2016

Hot Ticket: Capture Photography Festival.  Jim Breukelman is not entirely sure where the small, postwar bungalows he photographed are – if they even still exist.  The veteran photographer shot the meticulously maintained Vancouver homes in the 1980s for a series called Hot Properties – but then in true Vancouver fashion, his car was broken into and his notebook with the addresses of the houses was stolen. Now those images are hitting huge Pattison billboards across the city as part of this year’s Capture Photography Festival.  Globe & Mail, March 30, 2016

Songs of Glass Island inspired by Robert Smithson’s failed Island of Glass in B.C.  A group of sound artists have used a failure by Robert Smithson in 1970 as inspiration to create a contemporary performance work being performed in Vancouver and Victoria this week.  Songs for Glass Island by Camille Norment and the Experimental Music Unit takes its name from a proposal by the U.S. artist in 1970 to cover a small, rocky island near Nanaimo with broken glass.  Kevin Griffin, Staff Blogs, Vancouver Sun, April 5, 2016


From approval to rejection: before Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson proposed Glass Island by Nanaimo.  Robert Smithson’s Glass Island started out with such promise. In the winter of 1970, Smithson had all the approvals in place to create a massive art work by covering a small, rocky island near Nanaimo with 90 tonnes of broken glass. Kevin Griffin, Staff Blogs, Vancouver Sun, April 5, 2016


Robert Amos: Artist explores the poetry of paint. Lifu is the “art name” of a man who came to Victoria in January this year. A native of Shenyang in north of China, he grew up in an artistic family where his mother, Zhi Zhang, was a modern expressionist paper-cut artist.  In the past year, Lifu has created a new exhibition for Winchester Galleries.  Times Colonist, April 2, 2016


How a Cartoonist Can Change an Art Gallery.  The world of cartoons and the world of art have a longstanding—and, some might say, deepening—relationship. In recent months, cartoonist Eric Dyck’s residency at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery has engaged this tradition in a fresh way.  Canadian Art, April 2016


New ROM Director: Art as Well as Dinosaurs.  The ROM is not as closely associated with the visual arts as the other organizations. What is the role of art at the museum currently—an occasional blockbuster? A slight afterthought? But this may change under new director, Josh Basseches’s influence.  Canadian Art, March 31, 2016


Anita Kunz turns the tables on the nude.  I opened a folio of watercolour nudes by Anita Kunz at Cube Gallery, and therein, first among 100 famous men, was our prime minister, down on one knee and back arched, better to proudly display his regalia. At least Trudeau isn’t tumescent, as is Abraham Lincoln, a few pages further in. And he looks better than does the divisive (and recently deceased) former mayor of Toronto Rob Ford, who is portrayed as stout and stunned.  Ottawa Citizen, April 4, 2016

New curator, Joanne Stober, to take war museum’s art into the digital age.  The museum’s director general, Stephen Quick, wants to put more of an emphasis on collecting and exhibiting photography, film and new media to give visitors more than the traditional paintings of world war battlefield scenes that currently dominate the halls of the museum.  The planned shift in focus also means collaborating more with other major photo collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, Library and Archives Canada and the Imperial War Museum in Britain.  Ottawa Citizen, April 1, 2016


Mere Phantoms brings art out of the shadows.  Montrealers Maya Ersan and Jaimie Robson are the artists behind Mere Phantoms, an art studio that is finding international acclaim by reviving two very old art forms: shadow theatre and paper cutting.  Montreal Gazette, April 2, 2016

CBC is forced to face ugly truths about its French-language headquarters. No non-elected Montrealer has more clout in matters architectural than Phyllis Lambert. When the Bronfman heir and founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture said this week that the CBC’s Maison Radio-Canada, which others were calling a heritage building, was actually a piece of junk, her opinion was treated by the city’s media as breaking news. Globe & Mail, April 1, 2016


Beyond Press Releases: 5 Questions About Art Institutions.  In many ways, 2016 is turning out to be an exciting year for art institutions in Canada but Leah Sandals notes there are also thorny issues in the art-institutions sector and asks:  When will art institutions start to acknowledge their complicity in gentrification and artist displacement? How will everyday citizens ever get their due in the naming-rights game? Why is Canadian talent being overlooked for top jobs at key museums and art institutions? Who will look deeper into the image gaffes that still catch out so many institutions that are supposedly experts in visual culture and its meanings? And Why the persistence of the “if you build it, they will come” syndrome?   Canadian Art, April 5, 2016



Anish Kapoor Coats “Cloud Gate” in the Darkest Black Known to Humanity.  Taking advantage of his exclusive rights to make artistic use of the high-tech, light-absorbing material Vantablack, the British artist Anish Kapoor has covered the entire surface of his Chicago public sculpture “Cloud Gate” (2006) with it.  Hyperallergic, April 1, 2016

New York

As China Evolves, the Artist Cao Fei Is Watching.  Fresh off the plane from Art Basel Hong Kong this week, the Chinese artist Cao Fei was stationed at MoMA PS1, ready to supervise the installation of her first United States museum retrospective. At 37, she seemed too young to warrant an extensive survey. The New York Times, April 1, 2016

United States

US museums spent $5bn to expand as economy shrank.  Glitzy buildings mean more visitors—but they could conceal a financial timebomb.  US museums spent nearly $5bn on expansions between 2007 and 2014, according to research by The Art Newspaper. During the worst US recession since the Great Depression, $4.95bn was spent or pledged by 26 museums…  Some ask whether expansions are always a wise investment. Adrian Ellis, a director of AEA Consulting in New York, says one-third of projects are a product of “a failure of imagination”. Bob Rennie, the Vancouver-based real-estate executive who is on the board of the Art Institute of Chicago, says some institutions in North America build extensions without thinking carefully about what will go inside them… And the cost of an expansion does not end with the ribbon-cutting. “There is a tipping point where, instead of the building being a resource, it becomes something that requires resources.”   The Art Newspaper, April 4, 2016


‘Queen of the curve’ Zaha Hadid dies aged 65 from heart attack. A lengthy statement released by her company said: “It is with great sadness that Zaha Hadid Architects have confirmed that Dame Zaha Hadid DBE died suddenly in Miami in the early hours of this morning.  The Guardian, March 31, 2016.  See also: Zaha Hadid Was Just Getting Started.  The New Yorker, April 4, 2016 and Zaha Hadid, Groundbreaking Architect, Dies at 65The New York Times, March 31, 2016

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Head Cheyenne Westphal Out After 25 Years.  Cheyenne Westphal, the worldwide head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, is leaving after 25 years in what is another high-profile departure in the string of defections from the auction house’s upper ranks following the fall sales.  Art News, March 31, 2016


Brass Foundry Is Closing, but Debate Over Degas’s Work Goes On. The Valsuani foundry, whose bronze sculptures by Edgar Degas have roiled the art market for more than a decade, is closing, by order of a French judge who ruled that its business, just outside Paris, should be liquidated to pay off creditors. The New York Times, April 4, 2016


Laurie Fendrich: How critical thinking sabotages painting.   “During the two and a half decades I was a full-time painting professor before retiring in 2014, followed by the year and a half I spent as a visiting artist at two prominent art schools, I observed dramatic shifts in ideas about teaching painting. Professors of my ilk see painting as a hands-on art form best learned through looking at great paintings and at painters in action, and by painting while being coached.  The new pedagogy has been endorsed mostly by younger painting professors but a few geezers too, who see painting as best learned through critical thinking, a method borrowed from literature and the social sciences.”–Laurie Fendrich.  Two Coats of Paint, March 30, 2016

10 Essential Female Architects. Zaha Hadid was an inspiration to women in the field, which suffers from a severe gender imbalance. We’re highlighting the works of past and present female architects you should also know.  Flavorwire, April 1, 2016

For the Love of Bad Art.  Only a few years ago, Ecce homo might have merited a listing or two in regional guidebooks at most. But its appearance coincided with a cultural moment wherein extraordinary failures have become victories on their own terms, thanks to the Internet. #Fail is no longer the pejorative it might once have been—if anything, it’s a kind of hallmark of success.  Failed works of art, in particular, subvert notions of what art should or shouldn’t be, offering humor in the form of painterly mishap and exposing the human fascination with screwing up.  The Atlantic, April 4, 2016




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