What We Learned This Week
After a lazy summer the art world is gearing up again. Yesterday was the first day of Art-O-Rama, the boutique fair which brings collectors to the South of France for one last glimpse of the sun every year. Next week, Team Elephant will be zipping around the world to the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea and FNB Joburg Art Fair in South Africa. It’s also Brussels Gallery Weekend, with Independent Brussels opening in its new timeslot, away from Art Brussels in April. Truth be told, we rather enjoy the autumn art world madness setting back in—you can sleep when you’re dead.
Many of us like to believe we are more popular than we actually are—but the poor National Portrait Gallery in London has actually been underestimating its appeal. The gallery has released attendance figures for the last three years which have suggested an enormous downfall in visitor numbers, dropping from 2.1 million visitors in 2015/16 to 1.1 million in 2017/18. This drop has caused major concerns for the public museum’s key funder, the UK government’s department for culture. It turns out that the system provided by Ipsos Retail Performance was counting inaccurately. While there has been a drop overall, it’s not nearly as bad as suggested—a mere 10 per cent.
One thing’s certain, the people who did visit the gallery will have left feeling super happy! A new study found that a majority of its participants, all of whom suffered chronic pain, felt less physical discomfort and social disconnection after a one-hour museum tour. The tours were led by Art Rx at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. One participant is quoted in the Art Newspaper stating: “I’m looking at art and I am no longer my body—I’m in a place of connection.”
Oil companies are in art news yet again after two Dutch museums ended partnerships with their sticky sponsor, Shell. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Mauritshuis in The Hague both ended their eighteen- and six-year relationships (respectively) this summer. All parties have claimed this is a mutual decision, but institutions’ relationships with oil companies always raise eyebrows, as pressure is increasingly applied by artists and protest groups to break ties.
Over in the Philippines artist Carlos Celdran is in an ongoing legal battle for his protests in aid of reproductive rights. In 2010 he staged a protest in the Manila Cathedral, as a very direct response to the church’s opposition of the reproductive health bill, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act. The bill was passed in 2012, but Celdran’s case is ongoing. After a 2013 conviction was upheld in court earlier this month, Solicitor General Jose Calida came out in support of the artist and is currently petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn the latest conviction.
Exhibition of the Week
Running for another two weeks, Unbecoming: Yale MFA Photo 2018 features nine artists from Yale School of Art’s graduating class—a great way to spot some emerging names in the world of photography. The show was held at David Zwirner gallery in New York this July and is now housed at Ltd Los Angeles. A characteristically wacky introductory essay by AL Steiner accompanies the show.
Quote of the Week
“I was interested in how she was using her sexuality to find a benefactor and shield herself from her ageing, but also to rebuff expectations about how she should behave as a daughter, mother and woman of her age”
—Leigh Ledare reflects on his mother’s later-in-life calling as a stripper and centrefold model, in his interview with Penny Rafferty for Elephant
Instagram Account of the Week
Painters Painting Paintings (@painterspaintingpaintings)
It’s rather self-explanatory really, this is a wonderful place to find some great painters! There’s a nice balance between new discoveries and young painters who are already smashing it, with names such as Grace Weaver, Emily Mae Smith and Chloe Wise. A must-follow.