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Beatrix Ruf resigns as Stedelijk director over alleged conflicts of interest; Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald to paint the Obamas

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Stedelijk Museum. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; Photograph: Mark Ahsmann

Stedelijk Museum. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; Photograph: Mark Ahsmann

Beatrix Ruf has resigned as director from Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. The news was announced at a press conference this morning, and comes after weeks of controversy in the Dutch media over accusations of conflicts of interest concerning private collectors and external income. Ruf is quoted in a museum statement today, saying: 'To me, the museum is more important than me as an individual.’ Ruf has been the focus of criticism over an alleged lack of transparency in negotiations with donors, as well as potential conflict of interest by running an art advisory service while in the Stedelijk role. A report in Dutch national newspaper NRC Handelsblad set out concerns over German collector Thomas Borgmann and his donation and loan of works to the museum. The paper's investigation revealed that the donation was accompanied by a contract stating that the Stedelijk would purchase works by artists Micharl Krebber and Matt Mullican from the donor, amounting to EUR€1.5 million. A follow-up piece from the newspaper then looked into Ruf’s private art-advisory, Currentmatters, which made a total profit of at least EUR€437,306 in Ruf’s first year as Stedelijk director, although the name of the company is not included in external activities listed in the museum’s annual report. Ruf was appointed director in 2014 after serving as director at the Kunsthalle Zurich.

The artist duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have won this year's Prix Marcel Duchamp for their installation Unconformities (2017). The award comes with a prize of EUR€35,000. The artists were born in Beirut in 1969, and now split their time between the Lebanese capital and Paris – they often use their films to explore the representation of Lebanon across Western media, and the line between documentary and fiction. Their work was featured in the Athens leg of documenta 14. The prize-winning installation, which references subsoil sampling techniques, is part of the artists’ project looking at ‘the writing of history and the construction of imaginaries’. The prize was founded in 2000 by the Association for the International Diffusion of French Art and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in recognition of artists working in France.

The shortlist for the biannual Max Mara Art Prize for Women 2017-19 has been announced. The artists shortlisted for the seventh edition of the prize are Helen Cammock, Céline Condorelli, Eloise Hawser, Athena Papadopoulos, Lis Rhodes and Mandy El-Sayegh. The winning artist, announced early next year, will receive a six-month residency in Italy and the chance to realize a new work to be shown at solo exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery in London and Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia. This year’s judging panel included Carlos/Ishikawa gallerist Vanessa Carlos and critic Rachel Spence. The award was estabished in 2005 by the Whitechapel Gallery with the Max Mara Fashion Group to support UK female artists. The previous edition's winner was Emma Hart, whose installation Mamma Mia! opened at the Whitechapel Gallery this summer.

Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art has announced details for its eight edition which opens on 20 April and runs until 7 May 2018. A group exhibition at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art will include Jesse Darling, Cécile B. Evans and Mai-Thu Perret, exploring notions of the cyborg and the avatar. The 2018 festival programme will also include solo exhibitions by Mark Leckey and Lubaina Himid as well as new commissions by Linder and Tai Shani. The festival is under the direction of Richard Parry, formerly Director of the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool.  

Galerie Daniel Templon has plans for a second gallery in Paris at 28 rue de Grenier Saint Lazare, close to its current location at 30 Rue Beauborg as well as Centre Pompidou. The gallery celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Architect Jean-Michel Silmotte is signed up to redesign the new 700-square-metre space, scheduled to open next April. ‘The French capital now has everything it needs to take a leading role in the international art market’, Templon said in a statement.

Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have been chosen to paint the Obamas' official portraits. The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington. D.C., traditionally commissions an artist to paint portraits of the president and first lady after their tenure – Wiley and Sherald will be the first black artists chosen to paint a presidential couple. ‘They make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century,’ NPG director Kim Sajet said in a statement.

New York’s James Cohan Gallery has been protested over an Omer Fast show which has created 'the waiting room of a Chinatown business with an eclectic aesthetic’, featuring distressed tiling; paper lanterns, Chinese menus and graffiti. Protests have been led by art collective Chinatown Atrt Brigade, who accuse the show of indulging in racist stereotyping and insensitivity to the local community. They said in a statement: ‘This exhibition is a hostile act towards communities on the front lines fighting tenant harassment, cultural appopriation and erasure.'

The Maria Lassnig Prize has been awarded to Cathy Wilkes – the artist receives a EUR€50,000 grant and solo exhibition at MoMA PS1. ‘For more than two decades, Wilkes has created sculptural installations that engage with the rituals of life,’ MoMA PS1 Chief Curator Peter Eleey commented: ‘Wilkes’s installations connect the banalities of daily existence to larger archetypes of birth, marriage, child-rearing and death.'

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