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  • Jun 18, 2021

Recovery in Progress: Weekly News Roundup

Exterior view of Sursock Museum, Beirut. Photo by Rowina BouHarbw. Courtesy Sursock Museum.

As the art world continues to recover, restructure, and reorganize itself from the tumultuous events of 2020 and now 2021, here are the latest updates on new commissions, awards, and a new art fair in Shenzhen, as well as fundraising campaigns for damaged art venues.

On May 16, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation committed to a USD 965,000 funding agreement in support of the restoration and reopening of Beirut’s Sursock Museum, which has been closed to the public since the port explosion on August 4, 2020. The deal is part of UNESCO's initiative Li Beirut, launched on August 27, 2020, to aid in the reconstruction of schools, historical buildings, and cultural spaces. This latest sum joins numerous other donations from institutions and organizations including the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH Foundation) and the French Ministry of Culture for a combined total of USD 2,376,751. Sursock Museum still needs to raise more than USD 500,000 to achieve the USD 3 million goal required to complete the ongoing rehabilitation work.

GUANGLI LIU, When the Sea Sends Forth a Forest, 2020, still from film: 21 min 10 sec. Courtesy the artist.

On June 14, Prix Ars Electronica revealed the winners for all categories in its 2021 edition. Chinese animation artist Guangli Liu clinched the Golden Nica for Computer Animation with his video When the Sea Sends Forth a Forest (2020), an attempt to visualize the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia through the juxtaposition of 3D animation and archival footage. The collective Forensic Architecture was recognized in the Artificial Intelligence and Life Art category for their project Cloud Studies (2020), which investigates atmospheric pollution, such as through the deployment of tear gas and herbicide. German artist Alexander Schubert’s Convergence (2020/21), an experimental performance involving live instrumentalists and their mirrored, virtual entities, secured the top prize in Digital Music and Sound Art. The Young Professionals award, for practitioners aged 14–19, went to Felix Senk, Emil Steixner, and Max-Jakob Beer for their modular synthesizer built from electronic scrap. Each of the winning parties will receive EUR 10,000 (USD 12,000). Ars Electronica also named the inaugural honorees of two competitive prizes. Branch magazine, dedicated to a sustainable future for the internet, bagged the EUR 10,000 Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity, while the music system Apotome won the EUR 5,000 (USD 6,000) Isao Tomita Special Prize, named in honor of the late Japanese electronic music composer.

Portrait of BETTY FUNG CHING SUK-YEE. Courtesy West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

In a late Friday afternoon announcement, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) named Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee as the next CEO of Hong Kong’s developing HKD 47.1 billion (USD 6 billion) arts district. A civil servant for more than three decades, Fung directed the Leisure and Cultural Services Department from 2009 to 2014, and was appointed by Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam to take part in the five-member “core team” that developed the Hong Kong Palace Museum. Currently the acting CEO, Fung’s three year term will begin on October 15. The WKCDA’s signature M+ museum is expected to open at the end of the year, followed by the Hong Kong Palace Museum in 2022.

Agriculture terraces at Dar Jacir burnt as a result of the projectiles. Courtesy Aline Khoury.

On June 11, the fundraising campaign for the recently damaged Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research in Bethlehem updated its goal to USD 50,000, after meeting its original USD 25,000 target within 48 hours of its launch. Hosted by the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran and Turkey with other nonprofit organizations, the fundraiser will aid the artist-run space to undertake short- and long-term repair and maintenance as well as acquire new equipment. A Palestinian cultural center and residency space in the occupied West Bank, Dar Jacir sustained significant damage as a result of a fire in its urban garden early May and a raid by Israeli security forces on May 15–16. The campaign ends on June 24.

Rendering image of ALEX SETON’s For every drop shed in anguish in Sculpture Garden, Australian War Memorial. Image by Mr.P Studios. Courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Sydney sculptor Alex Seton will unveil a major commission for the Australian War Memorial’s Sculpture Garden, located in Canberra, in late 2023. For every drop shed in anguish will comprise a field of droplets scupted from Australian pearl marble, symbolizing “blood, sweat or tears,” as the artist explained. These forms “have an inner strength and resilience that provides hope and promise of healing.” Karen Bird, the mother of a veteran who took his own life, expressed support for Seton’s proposed installation, stating that it will “enhance our ability to continue the conversation we have begun within the walls of the Memorial—a truth telling of how war does come home and how accumulative service does have consequences.”

Exterior view of Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning. Image via Facebook.

The inaugural design and art fair, DnA Shenzhen, will be China’s first art fair held within a museum, and is scheduled to run from September 30 to October 4. Organized by the same team that launched Shanghai’s Art021 fair and Beijing’s JingArt, DnA will bring 40 participants to the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning in Guangdong province. The fair will be separated into four sections, including design, contemporary art, traditional antiquities, and prints and photography. Amid ongoing travel restrictions and long quarantines that have stemmed the flow of mainland art collectors to fairs in Hong Kong and further afield, DnA Shenzhen will target China’s expanding art market.

Portraits of the awardees (left to right, top to bottom): FIRELEI BÁEZ, DINEO SESHEE BOPAPE, MEIRO KOIZUMI, BEATRIZ SANTIAGO MUÑOZ, PACHPUTE PRABHKR, and CARRIE MAE WEEMS. Image via Facebook.

On June 17, the Cardiff-based Artes Mundi 9 prize was bestowed to all six of the shortlisted artists: Firelei Báez, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Meiro Koizumi, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Prabhakar Pachpute, and Carrie Mae Weems. Each artist receives a GBP 10,000 slice of the prize money, as the jury recognized the contributions of all six artists through the Covid-19 pandemic. Their works are on view through September 5 at the National Museum Cardiff.

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