What We Learned This Week

Turkeys, positive energy and the Vatican getting well arty. All in this week’s news.

International politics couldn’t help but creep into the art world this week, as a sign of peace (at least, for the benefit of us little people) was recognized between states with the announcement of a cultural exchange that will happen between China and the Vatican in an attempt to jolly up relations between the two. It has been announced that this coming March there will be a simultaneous display of forty artworks from each to the other—the most notable from Chinese artist Zhang Yan. In a time of church-based tensions between the two, the Vatican’s spokesman Greg Burke has suggested that cultural exchanges are far simpler than diplomatic ones.

Another cultural exchange, Germany and Qatar’s Year of Culture partnership, hasn’t proved quite so simple. It was imagined that the summer blockade of Qatar, imposed by a number of the surrounding countries, would affect its cultural institutions and museums the most. This week, it was reported that the final stage of the partnership would nonetheless steam ahead, opening early next month as Contemporary Art—Qatar moves into Berlin’s Kraftwerk, a former power plant that also houses a famous techno club.

Brazil has seen further action over its controversial closure of the Queermuseu exhibition at the Santander Cultural in Porto Alegre. The show—dedicated to queer art—was swiftly shut down in September after protests from right-wing groups who claimed the show promoted bestiality, blasphemy and paedophilia. This week the show’s curator, Zanele Muholi, was ordered before the senate.

Millions of Americans headed home for Thanksgiving and the art world was quick to respond to the controversial yet widely loved holiday. KAWS Instagrammed a 2012 image of one of his figures, head in hands, floating along Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in balloon form; David Shrigley posted an image of a dry-looking, permatanned ceramic turkey carcass; and Toilet Paper magazine shared an image of a rooster (perhaps more accurately, a cock) appearing from under a woman’s skirt. Our columnist Mel Byars discussed the dark underbelly of his home country’s long-held tradition.

Sick of the riff-raff on regular airlines when you jet off to various art fairs and biennales throughout the year? If you can’t afford a private jet, go for the next best thing: an artist-only airline. This week there was much hoo-ha about Angelhaha, founded by artist Qinmin Liu, which will take its first voyage to Miami for the famously debauched Art Basel. Flights are priced from $300 to $3,000 and the airline promises only the “most positive energy”.

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