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  • Jul 09, 2021

Weekly News Roundup: July 9, 2021

Installation view of MONIRA AL-QADIRI

Dubai Expo Launches Public Artworks

Dubai’s Expo 2020 festival has launched a public-art program featuring 11 open-air artworks. Inspired by the Book of Optics, an 11th-century CE work by the Arabic scholar Ibn Al-Haytham, the program was kick started with the debut of multimedia artist Monira Al-Qadiri’s new commission, Chimera (2021), an iridescent sculpture of an oil drill. By evoking the Gulf’s famous exports, pearls, and oil, Al-Qadiri’s massive, futuristic installation demonstrates the connections between the region’s history and economy. Alongside Al-Qadiri, the other commissioned artists include Hamra Abbas, Afra Al-Dhaheri, Shaikha Al-Mazrou, Abdullah Al-Saadi, Asma Belhamar, Olafur Eliasson, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Khalil Rabah, Yinka Shonibare, and Haegue Yang. The 11 artworks will form a permanent exhibition in District 2020, a smart city planned to evolve from Expo 2020, which is slated to open on October 1.

KIM SEO-KYUNG and KIM EUN-SUNG‘s disputed sculpture Statue of Peace (2021), pictured at the latest "After ’Freedom of Expression’," at Sakae municipal gallery, Nagoya. Image via Twitter.

Japanese Rightwing Nationalists Shut Down Exhibition’s Return to Nagoya

On July 8, organizers of the controversial exhibition “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?” which features Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung’s comfort-woman statue, Statue of Peace (2011), were forced to close the exhibition at the Sakae municipal gallery in Nagoya, after receiving threatening messages and a package of firecrackers. Days earlier, protesters from the far-right disrupted the exhibition by blaring their complaints over speakerphones outside the gallery, while others entered and touched the disputed statue as a gesture of disrespect. “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?” was a group exhibition that initially opened at the Aichi Prefecture Museum of Art, in Nagoya, as part of the 2019 Aichi Triennale, but was forced to shutter after receiving a flurry of threats and complaints over the statue. In the following years, the organizers launched a tour of the show as an attempt to display the works to the public, but the exhibition continued to spark conflicts across the country. The Tokyo edition, originally set to show at Session House Garden gallery on June 25, was indefinitely postponed due to similar disruptions. Other plans to hold the show in Osaka have also been stymied, after the local government revoked permission to use a prefectural facility.

Portrait of ROBERT MORGAN. Courtesy Australia Council for the Arts.

New Australia Council Chair

On July 1, the Australian Government appointed Robert Morgan as the chair of the Australia Council of the Arts for a period of three years, effective immediately. He is currently the executive chairman of the marketing and advertising agency Clemenger Group and the director of the Australian football team Sydney Swans, as well as the former director of Opera Australia. In his new role, Morgan will assist the Morrison government’s strategic agenda to promote Australia’s culture and creativity, while providing funding and advisory support toward the nation’s cultural and arts sectors through his critical leadership. Morgan replaces outgoing chair Sam Walsh, who has held the position since 2018. Federal arts minister Paul Fletcher commented on the appointment, “I look forward to the role Robert Morgan will play in supporting the Morrison Government’s strategic priorities for the arts, including making the arts more accessible to all Australians.”

Exterior view of By Art Matters, Hangzhou. Image via Instagram.

Hangzhou’s New Art Museum Announces First Exhibition

By Art Matters, a new contemporary art museum in Hangzhou, has released information about its inaugural exhibition, “A Show About Nothing.” Scheduled to open this November, the group exhibition takes inspiration from the classic United States sitcom Seinfeld, and will feature nearly 30 artists, including Robert Grosvenor, Roman Ondak, Tino Sehgal, Geng Jianyi, and Lai Chih-Sheng. Under the supervision of museum director Francesco Bonami, the show is curated by assistant director Wu Tian, curator-at-large Stefano Collicelli Cagol, and curatorial director Sun Man. Located within the Renzo Piano-designed OōEli art complex, By Art Matters spans 6,000 square meters, including 1,500 square meters of exhibition space. According to The Art Newspaper, the museum is backed by Li Lin and Wu Jian, co-founders of Hangzhou-based fashion house JNBY Group.