This N' That: Keep In The Know With Photography News
By Ashley Yu
In Another Episode of Bad, Rich People Need To Be Held Accountable...
The Smithsonian Institute has denied the request of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley to remove Arthur M. Sackler’s name from its Asian art gallery. On June 19, the Senator wrote a letter decrying the Sackler’s critical role in creating the opioid crisis of today and what he calls “one of the deadliest public health crisis in our country.” In light of recently uncovered court documents, the Senator also remarks that “Sackler family members personally and aggressively drove Purdue’s strategy to get American’s hooked on OxyContin.
However, the new secretary of the institute, Lonnie G. Bunch, responded to the Senator, stating that the Smithsonian was, is, and always will be, legally bound to keep the Sackler name ad infinitum. This commitment began in 1982, when Arthur M. Sackler donated $50M worth of Asian art and artifacts to the Smithsonian (which in and of itself is most definitely the result of colonial pilfering and questionable Orientalism), as well as an extra $4M to construct the Asian wing. Arthur M. Sackler passed away, eight years before the painkiller existed. It was his brothers that would begin this pharmaceutical scandal.
This incident is not surprising. While art institutions, such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Met, and Tate, have rejected donations from any of the Sacklers associated with Purdue Pharma, none of them have announced the removal of the family name.
Slippery Slope: Artists vs. BP Oil and National Portrait Gallery
As the crusade for ethical museum funding unfolds indefinitely, nearly 80 artists have written an open letter to the director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, urging him to cut ties with the oil giant. This letter is in direct response to the corporation’s sponsorship of the BP Portrait Award. Written by Gary Hume, one of the jurors for the award, it has already been signed by artists, including Anish Kapoor, Allen Jones, and Sarah Lucas.
As BP is one of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers that has contributed majorly to our climate crisis, the group has demanded that the museum not to renew the partnership after its end in 2022. “We believe that, today, the loss of BP as a source of funding is a cost worth bearing,” states the letter, “until the company changes course and enables future generations to make art in a world that resembles our own...our commitment is to act in good faith and for the public good.”
The BP Portrait Award is widely recognized as one of the most significant prizes in the photography world, with the winner receiving $43,000 USD in prize money. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the award and the 30th anniversary of BP sponsorship. This year’s winner, Charlie Schaffer, was announced on June 10 but protests surrounding the building and blocking entry drowned out his win.
“Pictures” Curator Douglas Crimp Passes Away at 74
Douglas Crimp was the art critic, essayist, and curator, whose landmark “Pictures” exhibition defined an artistic movement, died in his Manhattan home at the age of 74 on Friday.
Born in Idaho, 1944, Crimp escaped the small-town rural life to study in Tulane University, New Orleans on a scholarship for art history. He kickstarted his career by moving to New York City as the assistant curator for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 1977, Crimp would make his name with the “Pictures” exhibition for the non-profit gallery Artists Space in New York. With a quiet media reception, the now-revolutionary show featured only 5 artists: Robert Longo, Phillip Smith, Jack Goldstein, Troy Brauntuch, and Sherrie Levine. In the latter years, the “Pictures Generation” would include the like of Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince.
As the AIDS crisis reached its peak in New York, Crimp would become a passionate essayist and activist. His collection, Melancholia and Moralism, was published in 2002. He would later write extensively on queer, gender, feminist theory, political philosophy, and institutional critique. His most influential collection of essays, On The Museum of Ruins (1993), posited that museums are never neutral sites of the world’s artistic, cultural, and historical treasures. He was an art history professor at the University of Rochester until the time of his death.
Lawsuit Scandals: The Andy Warhol Foundation vs. Lynn Goldsmith’s Prince Portrait
The lawsuit began in 1984, with Warhol’s series of silkscreen prints, featuring Prince’s portrait. The portrait itself was taken by photographer Lynn Goldsmith, which she claims was appropriated unlawfully. This decades-long legal battle ended at the New York federal court last Monday between the photographer and the Andy Warhol Foundation.
According to the judge, the case was thrown out since Warhol has sufficiently transformed Goldsmith’s photographs to be another work entirely-- from her image of a “vulnerable, uncomfortable person” into “an iconic larger-than-life figure.” The judge argued that the print is more recognizable as “a Warhol” than as a portrait of the late pop singer.
The original photograph was taken in a photoshoot in 1981 for Newsweek, which was unpublished at that time. The monochromatic portrait, however, was bought by Vanity Fair in 1984, and commissioned Warhol to create an illustration for an article. The foundation is also seeking payment, including reimbursement of legal fees. However, it was the foundation that preemptively sued Goldsmith first. Don’t we all just love the big institutions and how they hide behind a dead person’s name to make their money?
Goldsmith continues to seek appeals for her case, declaring that “more photographers [should] stand up along with me to say that your work cannot just be taken from you without your permission.”
Not The Chicago Bean!
Seven people, seemingly five men and two women, were arrested for vandalising Anish Kapoor’s iconic public sculpture Cloud Gate (a.k.a. The Bean). Their motives are unknown but police officers were called into the Millenium Park at midnight to find spray paint on Kapoor’s sculpture, as well as tags of the “35th Crew” and the walls of the Cancer Survivors Garden nearby. The Bean was cleaned up by morning.
Personally, it had so much potential to be some sort of political statement, but defacing a public site memorializing cancer survivors was just a tad much, no?
Cloud Gate was installed in Chicago in 2006. It has faced vandalism once hitherto to this incident where a “PeterS” and an “Ashley” carved their names into the steel sculpture in 2009.