Briefing: Trevor Paglen’s ‘Weeping Angel’ Flag Protests US Surveillance State

In further news: arts institutions cut ties with architect Richard Meier after harassment claims; Shenzhen Biennale removes curator Gary Xu Gang

Trevor Paglen, Weeping Angel, 2018, installation view. Courtesy: Creative Time; photograph: Guillaume Ziccarelli

Trevor Paglen, Weeping Angel, 2018, installation view. Courtesy: Creative Time; photograph: Guillaume Ziccarelli

Trevor Paglen, Weeping Angel, 2018, installation view. Courtesy: Creative Time; photograph: Guillaume Ziccarelli

Seventeen arts institutions across the US are flying a protest flag designed by artist Trevor Paglen, as part of New York public art nonprofit Creative Time’s ‘Pledges of Allegiance’ project. Titled Weeping Angel, Paglen’s banner shows an angel with its face in its hands – the title refers to a CIA technology used to hack into Smart TVs in order to spy on people. Participating institutions include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, Atlanta Contemporary and the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa. Artists involved in the ‘Pledges of Allegiance’ series include Marilyn Minter, Jeremy Deller and Tania Bruguera. ‘It’s our fervent hope that Pledges inspires others to join us in solidarity, flying these symbols of unity and shared identity on their own grounds and so establishing more such spaces nationwide,’ Creative Time’s Artistic Director Nato Thompson commented at the project’s launch last year.

Helen Molesworth is out from her job as chief curator of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum cited ‘creative differences’ for her departure but former employees, who wish to remain anonymous, have suggested to frieze that Molesworth’s tenure was more problematic and claimed that she was a ‘poor manager’. Initial news reports suggested a conflict over curatorial values between Molesworth and director Philippe Vergne. Read our full story here.

Arts institutions have moved to cut ties with architect Richard Meier, following claims of sexual harassment made against him by five women, reported by the New York Times. The J. Paul Getty Trust has cancelled a dinner in Meier’s honour (Meier designed LA’s Getty Center), Sotheby’s New York is closing an exhibition of his work early, and Cornell University has declined a recent gift made by the architect.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has been hit by claims from security staff that it has created a working environment of ‘fear and intimidation’. The allegations include instances of discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment. The Washington Post has the story. ‘People are intimidated. They will not make much noise’, one employee – a 65-year-old Army veteran – told the paper. 

Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed has removed his provocative video work Printemps (2013), which features a row of chickens ablaze, from an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) Lyon. The work had attracted significant criticism from animal rights activists online. Read more here.

Meanwhile the Shenzhen Biennale has cut ties with curator Gary Xu Gang following misconduct claims. The allegations emerged online when Wang Ao, an academic at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, claimed in a now deleted social media post that Xu, who held a post at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, had a history of harassing female students. This was followed by an anonymous account of Xu’s sexual misconduct on the Chinese question and answer platform Zhihu. ‘Given that the center’s attitude and mission is to spread positive energy of art, we, after deliberate consideration, decided to terminate our cooperation with Xu Gang for the 2018 Shenzhen Biennale’, the Luohu Museum of Art in Shenzhen said in a statement. Xu denies the allegations.

Artist Paul Chan and his publishing outfit Badlands Unlimited have produced banners for students in the US protesting for gun reform. The signs have an unlikely inspiration, taking their visual cues from the placards used by the Christian hate-speech group Westboro Baptist Church. Read our full report here.

The UK’s Liverpool Biennial which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, running from 14 July to 28 October 2018, has announced the programme for its 10th edition. Titled ‘Beautiful world, where are you?’ after a 1788 Schiller poem, the programme includes filmmaker Agnès Varda’s first UK-made film, a healing garden created by Mohamed Bourouissa, a shipping container pavilion designed by Mae-ling Lokko, and a series of war zone paintings by Francis Alÿs.

In awards and appointments news: the Graham Foundation has named its inaugural fellows, Torkwase Dyson, Brendan Fernandes, David Hartt, Martine Syms and Mark Wasiuta, who will be supported to produce new works for an exhibition series in the foundation’s Madlener House, Chicago; Michelangelo Pistoletto has won the Roswitha Haftmann Prize which recognizes artists with ‘an oeuvre of outstanding quality’ and comes with a CHF150,000 (GBP£113,000) award; Michael Morgner has been named as recipient of the inaugural Schmidt-Rottluff Art Prize which comes with USD$25,000 (GBP£18,000); Oscar Munoz has won the Hasselblad Prize for Photography; Helen Legg, currently director of Spike Island, Bristol, has been named the new director of Tate Liverpool; and Emily Pethick has been named as the new director of Amsterdam’s Rijksakademie.

In gallery news: Waddington Custot have announced representtion of American sculptor Jedd Novatt, with a solo exhibition planned in London for 16 November 2018; and Kurimanzutto is collaborating with Thomas Dane – the Mexico City gallery will be hosted at the London gallery this June; the galleries will switch roles later in the year.

And New York art school Cooper Union has committed to free tuition – the board has voted to approve a 10-year-plan to provice free education for each student, one of the institution’s founding principles (the introduction of fees in 2014 caused much controversy).

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