Naomi Beckwith, a curator to watch

At barely 41 years old, Naomi Beckwith is an African-American curator who is taking the other side of the Atlantic by storm thanks to her refreshing, all-embracing vision of today’s art. In Chicago, an interview with a woman whose social awareness underlines her inspiring take on her profession.   When the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago recently celebrated its 50th year, Naomi Beckwith was part of the team that organised its three-part “We are Here” birthday exhibition. A jury member of the 2015 Venice Biennale, this young curator at the MCA Chicago since 2011 is the inaugural winner of the VIA Art Fund Curatorial Fellowship grant, aimed at promoting promising artistic projects. And let’s not forget that in March 2017, she chaired the first curatorial leadership summit at New York’s Armory Show. An opportunity for AMA to shed light on her current role at the MCA and to discover her singular perspective on curatorship.   Naomi Beckwith, what did you do before becoming curator at the MCA Chicago? I was in New York, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. I managed the artist-residency programme and I worked on cultural projects relating to African-American identity, aesthetic minorities, but also current practices on a global scale.   The MCA Chicago is considered to be one of the most influential museums in the United States, with an extensive “historic” collection of contemporary art, ever since its creation in 1967.  What were your goals when you arrived there in 2011? I was coming home so to speak, because I was born and raised in the Windy City! I wanted to develop solo shows with established artists, but above all, to set up exhibitions on young emerging artists who have never been shown. But my current exhibition, “Howardena Pindell: What remains to be...

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Artist Peter Doig wins an absurd lawsuit in Chicago

After seven days in court in Chicago, the federal judge presiding over the unusual case regarding the authentification of a contested work has ruled that well-known British artist Peter Doig was not its author. Canadian Robert Fletcher claimed nearly $8 million in damages and interest when the artist denied producing a desert landscape owned by Fletcher. This denial ruined Fletcher’s plan to sell the work for several million dollars, on the basis that Doig’s works regularly go for over $10 million in auction sales. Fletcher decided to sell the painting when one of his friends told him that it was the work of a famous artist, and he consulted a Chicago reseller called Peter Bartlow to help him find a buyer. Fletcher also declared having met Peter Doig in the 1970s when the artist was serving a sentence in a correctional facility in Ontario for possession of LSD. The Canadian apparently paid the artist $100 for the work, signed “Pete Doige 76”. The artist, Scottish in origin, replied that this was impossible as he had never been...

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How much does the illegal trade of artworks rake in for the Islamic State?

A team of researchers from the University of Chicago, gathered under the banner of MANTIS (Modelling the Antiquities Trade in Iraq and Syria), has produced an estimation of the income from the underground art market from which the Islamic State draws part of its earnings, estimated at between $4 and 7 million. The Fertile Crescent region, home to humanity’s first complex societies, overflows with ancient treasures that rouse the interest of anthropologists and collectors. Interest that is exploited by the Islamic State that organises archaeological digs on territories under its control in order to sell antique artefacts and benefit from significant financial gains. Like all underground markets, it is impossible to accurately quantify the extent of the phenomenon, and transactions always take place behind closed doors. On the other hand, it is difficult to ascertain whether a piece has been pillaged or stolen or placed on the market illegally. The interdisciplinary project led by the University of Chicago shows that the Islamic State has developed an entire system for selling ancient artefacts. It organises archaeological digs whose booty is assessed by its own experts and then placed on the market, namely via Turkey, with tax averaging at 20 %. MANTIS researchers analyse the whole chain, and not just the trade itself, thus enabling more precise estimation of the reality of the phenomenon. In this way, illegal trade in the region gathers three players: looters, the Islamic State and finally dealers. Most stolen or looted pieces are targeted at auction houses that guarantee greater opacity in the provenance of certain pieces. The situation also feeds fantasies about the Islamic State and its power, as well as the art market whose reality is hidden behind the astronomical sales relayed by the media. The antiquities market is imbued with mysticism, like certain...

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Ann Goldstein, deputy director of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago has announced the appointment of Ann Goldstein as its deputy director. She will be the institute’s curator for modern and contemporary art. This appointment was a priority for the new director Rondeau who declared: “Ann joins us to lead one department and to bolster efforts to realise our larger strategic goals — global modern and contemporary art, and Asian art, from antiquity to the present… Our mission embraces the global past, the global present, and the global future.” Ann Goldstein has headed many projects as a curator in Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Chicago. Specialised in minimal and conceptual art from the 1960s to 1970s, she was formerly director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam from 2010 to 2013, and curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) of Los Angeles for 26 years. Ann Goldstein joins James Rondeau at the head of the institute and will support him in the Long Range Plan for extension of the museum’s Asian art collection as well as development of international art within the...

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Kavi Gupta representing the Roger Brown estate

The gallery Kavi Gupta (Chicago) is representing the estate of Roger Brown (1941-1997). The work of Roger Brown is inseparable from a perspective combining art, religion and politics, and delivers a testimony to modern life through colourful figurative painting, often set in urban landscapes. A distant cousin of Elvis Presley, Roger Brown’s folk painting is inspired by the aesthetics of comics, theatre or the decorative arts. His work is attached to the Chicago Imagists School, a name coined by curator Don Baum who organised an exhibition by the same name at the Hyde Park Art Centre at the end of the 1960s. The gallery Kavi Gupta is preparing to welcome the exhibition “Tony Tasset: Me And My Arrow” from 18 March to 23 April...

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