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  • Dec 18, 2020

Looking Ahead: Friday News Roundup

Exterior view of the National Gallery, London. Image via Facebook.

While Covid-19 continues to hold its influence, causing closures and re-closures with new regional spikes in infected cases, many art institutions have released plans for 2021. Here is a roundup of recent announcements and what’s to come.

Commercial art galleries are the latest to close in Germany due to stricter lockdown measures, effective from December 16 until at least the second week of January 2021. Museums, theaters, and other cultural venues that were already shuttered remain closed. On the same day, galleries and museums in London closed indefinitely, only two weeks after they reopened, as the British capital moved into its highest tier of Covid-19 restrictions. Museums in the Netherlands shuttered on December 15, and at the moment are expected to reopen on January 19, 2021. Meanwhile, the ongoing lockdown in France has been extended to at least January 7, 2021, affecting museums and other art spaces, while the country was alerted to French president Emmanuel Macron’s positive Covid-19 test on December 17.

Memebers of ROJAVA FILM COMMUNE. Photo by

On December 12, Fellowship for Social Initiatives from Arts and Culture (AFIELD) announced the awardees of its annual AFIELD fellowship, which grants USD 7,000 to artists or cultural practitioners who contribute to communities. The 2020 winners are collective Rojava Film Commune, dedicated to making social change through film; artist Shawon Akand, who is also curator at Dhaka’s art center Jothashilpa, which aims to support the development of the arts in Bangladesh; and actress and theater-maker Renata Carvalho, who raises awareness for transgenders in the arts community across Brazil. Created by the art organization Council and supported by the Tsadik Foundation, the first AFIELD fellowship was awarded in 2014.

ANGUS MCDONALD, Behrouz Boochani, 2020, oil on canvas, 160 × 230 cm. Copyright the artist. Photo by Mim Stirling. Courtesy Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

On December 16, the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ annual Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award, which recognizes artists of portraitures depicting distinguished figures in the field of arts, sciences, or politics, was conferred to Angus McDonald. Voted for by the public, McDonald received a cash award of AUD 3,500 (USD 2,650) for his photorealist portrait of Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian activist and writer who fought against the Australian government's mandatory offshore detention policy. Boochani was granted refugee status this year in New Zealand, where he sat for the portrait. McDonald is an artist and a filmmaker, and has held dozens of solo exhibitions in Australia and internationally.

CHEN ZHOU, How Can I Be Plural, 2020, still from short video; 4 min 37 sec. Courtesy the artist and Macalline Art Center, Beijing.

On December 17, Beijing’s new nonprofit art institution Macalline Art Center soft launched with numerous digital initiatives, including exhibition “Bare Screen” featuring newly commissioned video works by 12 Chinese artists that contemplate the role of artists in mass culture. Founded by Che Xuanqiao, artist and vice president of decor business Red Star Macalline Group, which funds the project, the center aims to promote experimental art practices under the direction of curator and art critic Yuan Fuca.While venue details have yet to be announced, the center plans to open to the public in mid-2021.

Portrait of PHILIP TINARI. Photo by Wang Jun. Courtesy UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.

On December 11, Saudi Arabia’s Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation, managed by its newly formed Ministry of Culture, announced that director and chief executive of Beijing’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Philip Tinari, will helm the inaugural Ad Diriyah Biennale. The contemporary art exhibition slated for 2021 will be hosted in the historic region outside of Riyadh, and will feature works from around 70 artists. The artist list, venues, and exact dates are still undisclosed. 

A general view of Art Dubai 2019. Courtesy Art Dubai.

On December 16, the United Arab Emirates' longest-running art fair, Art Dubai, confirmed that it will proceed with a live, in-person event in 2021 with 85 galleries from 36 countries, scheduled for March 17–21. The 14th edition coincides with the UAE’s 50th anniversary, and will return to the Madinat Jumeirah resort with health-related measures in place. A new artist-led program will feature performances and artist-directed site-specific experiences around the city by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Kristoffer Ardeña, and James Clar, among others. The 2020 fair was canceled in March just two weeks before its opening date due to the spread of Covid-19. The 2021 event, touted as the “first major international art fair taking place in Spring 2021,” is an aspiring hope for the new year.

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