Facebook Censors Picasso and Ai Weiwei’s Studio Disappears

The Montreal Museum of Modern Art falls foul of the social media platform’s censors, while there are protests against photographer Noboyushi Araki in Warsaw and Klaus Bisenbach joins MOCA in Los Angeles. Catch up with the latest news from the art world, plus our exhibition and Instagram account of the week.

Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995. Courtesy Guggenheim Bilbao
Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995. Courtesy Guggenheim Bilbao

What We Learned This Week

Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio has been destroyed by Chinese authorities, the latest casualty in a city-wide clearing of older buildings and traditional “hutong” alleyways to make way for a new wave of construction. The Chinese artist posted a series of videos of the interior and exterior of the studio being turned to rubble, showing his assistants working to box and save the many sculptures stored inside. Although he has lived in Berlin since 2015, many of his works remained at the studio in Beijing. Another studio of his was destroyed in 2011 in Shanghai without warning, and it remains unclear if this second casualty was deliberately targeted at him.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Women at Their Toilette, Cannes, January 4, 1956. © Estate of Picasso / SODRAC (2018). Photo © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY / Mathieu Rabeau
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Women at Their Toilette, Cannes, January 4, 1956. © Estate of Picasso / SODRAC (2018).
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY / Mathieu Rabeau

Another artist has recently had their work removed unannounced—none other than Picasso himself. An online advert for a major new exhibition of his work at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was blocked by Facebook, who do not permit nudity on the site. Algorithms search for content that breaks their rules, and are unable to spot the difference between a work of art and sexually explicit images. A similar fate befell the Flemish Tourist Board last month, who found their adverts containing paintings by Rubens removed. In a semi-playful riposte, they said, “Even though we secretly have to laugh about it, your cultural censorship is making life rather difficult for us.”

Over in Warsaw, Nobuyoshi Araki has run into difficulty with a feminist protest against his controversial work, which frequently shows female models tied up in traditional Japanese bondage “kinbaku”. The group stormed the exhibition at Raster Gallery where his photographs are currently on show, wearing bison masks in reference to the country’s national symbol, and in a nod to the ams-wearing US collective Guerrilla Girls. Their protest follows a statement by one of Araki’s long-time models Kaori alleging abuse and exploitation during her time working with the photographer, and  comes amidst growing awareness around the #MeToo movement.

Nobuyoshi Araki, Colourscapes, 1991, C-print. Museum of Sex Collection
Nobuyoshi Araki, Colourscapes, 1991, C-print. Museum of Sex Collection

Meanwhile, it has been announced that the first exhibition to go on show at South London Gallery’s brand new Fire Station extension will be themed around comedy, delving into slapstick, parody and caricature. Titled Knock Knock, it is co-curated by Ryan Gander and gallery director Margot Heller. The opening of the annexe in the historic, formerly derelict Fire Station was assisted by a successful crowdfunding campaign last month, and is due to open on 22 September—just in time for the arrival of Frieze London at the beginning of October.

Finally, director of MoMA PS1 Klaus Bisenbach has been announced as the new director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He leaves an institution currently caught up in a discrimination lawsuit brought by curator Nikki Columbus, who has accused PS1 of retracting a job offer after finding out that she had recently given birth. The appointment was not met with enthusiasm by some; New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz tweeted, “One white European male leaves. Another enters.”


Exhibition of the Week

Andy Clydesdale, Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2017
Andy Clydesdale, Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2017

Click Clack at Phillips

When the collectors are away, then the auctioneers…make art, it seems, as a new staff exhibition opens for one week only at Phillips. Click Clack is a chance for employees of the auction house, many of whom are artists in their own right, to exhibit their own works in the Phillips gallery in Berkely Square, London. And there are certainly some gems: Andy Clydesdale’s photograph of a woman enjoying the summer sun on a Balkan beach is sizzles with a seasonal warmth, whilst a sculptural piece by Andrew F. Sunderland named Late Night Psychotropic Shopping is brilliantly trippy and futuristic.


Quote of the Week

“It’s been really nice to have the space to be speculative—even just having paper and the chance to be honest, to think.”

—Elephant’s First Artist-in-Residence, Janet Currier, on her recent time in the studio


Instagram Account of the Week

Sara Anstis (@sara.anstis)

The human body collides with the natural world on Canadian-born artist Sara Anstis’s Instagram account, with an explosion of tongues, pastelly flesh and erotic humour. The characters in her pastel drawings and etchings morph into one another, laugh maniacally, smoke cigarettes and engage in general revelry—and her Instagram account only catches a fraction of the fun, with studio shots, finished pieces and works in progress.