Required Reading

This week, the world’s tallest tower (again), LA gallery troubles, curating for change, MOCA’s ethical issues, branding Ken Bone, and more.

Santiago Calatrava designed a new tower being built in Dubai, and while he hasn't revealed the height of the tower yet, his son that the structure will be "a notch taller" than the nearby Burj Khalifa. Whoa! (via Dezeen)
Santiago Calatrava designed a new tower being built in Dubai, and while he hasn’t revealed the height of the tower yet, he says that the structure will be “a notch taller” than the nearby Burj Khalifa. Maybe Dubai is working to preserve its title of being home to the world’s tallest skyscraper? (via Dezeen)

This week, the world’s tallest tower (again), LA gallery troubles, curating for change, MOCA’s ethical issues, branding Ken Bone, and more.

  • Curator Ashley Stull Meyers writes a short post for Arts.Black about the challenges of curating in an era of change:

As a Black female writer and curator, such actions have left with me questions about my own culpability in such omissions of visibility, and the ways in which I can challenge the institutions I work within to share my concern. The contemporary art world, which often prides itself on its political consciousness, has been sparingly vocal in response to criticism of primarily White centered exhibitions and institutional staffing.

“Some communities don’t have a background of resistance,” says artist Harry Gamboa Jr., who grew up in the neighborhood and was one of the founding members of the collective Asco. “But Boyle Heights does. And it has an intellectual base that goes back to the Chicano Movement, back to the era of the Pachucos.”


Part of that stems from the urban raw deals Boyle Heights has gotten over the last half century: The 135 acres of freeway that run indiscriminately through the neighborhood. The contamination unleashed by the Exide plant in nearby Vernon. And the plan, put forth two years ago by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, that would have brought 120,000 square feet of retail and office space around Mariachi Plaza — without any input from local residents. (The project was scrapped.)


Now activists from a loose coalition called the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement are demanding that the galleries leave.

MOCA director Philippe Vergne, reached by telephone in London where he is previewing a Tate Modern exhibition by French multimedia artist Philippe Parreno, said the Pesce show evolved from an interest in reviving his museum’s long-dormant design program.


“I understand it’s unusual,” Vergne said of the exhibition’s reliance on one private collection. “It’s a legitimate concern.”


While acknowledging “this blurred line we face every day with market forces,” he expressed confidence that the collector’s relationship with Pesce’s art is not speculative. Identifying the collector as co-organizer of the show was “perhaps clumsy,” he said, “but I wanted to be transparent.”

My impression regarding the critical discourse on Arab art is of its failure. I have become persuaded that western thinkers on art do not really understand Arab art because they are always looking for depth and perspective, and lately for the idealist, anthropological, mostly non-visual creations of western Post Modernism. They look for those things they are knowledgeable about, and this blinds them to all else. They rarely recognize the deep influence of Arab art on Western art — or more bluntly put, the influence of Palestinian art on Italian Renaissance art, which they see as the basis of Western art.  One of the great monuments of Islamic fine art, The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (691), is a major and catalytic influence on the Baptistery in Florence (1059-1128).

  • The story of Ken Bone, the red sweater–wearing white man who asked a question at the second presidential debate, is a case study in contemporary branding. The Atlantic investigates

In the space of a few days, Ken Bone has gone from a man, to a meme, to a celebrity, to a … brand. Or, more specifically, a #brand. Which is to say that he has ridden the roller coaster of microcelebrity to its inevitably commercialized conclusion, stopping along the way for lots of pictures that will commemorate the experience later on.


So, first, there were all those tweets. And the guy who wrote a song about him. And the twitterer who wrote a poem about him. Bone made the requisite appearance on Jimmy Kimmel. Stephen Colbert wrote a ballad in his honor. He was interviewed by The New York Times (in an article announcing in its headline that “Ken Bone Is Closer to Deciding”). Time magazine did a deep-dive analysis of the celebrities Bone follows on Twitter.

The shared history that brought these tribes together is, of course, more recent than the massacre at Wounded Knee. In “Custer Died for Your Sins,” a manifesto of the Native American-rights movement from 1969, the Sioux historian Vine Deloria, Jr., observed that, although “people often feel guilty about their ancestors killing all those Indians years ago,” the twentieth century had in fact “seen a more devious but hardly less successful war waged against Indian communities.” Deloria was referring to a host of injustices: the lack of funding for tribal education, which forced parents to send their children to government-run boarding schools; the termination of federal recognition for scores of tribes, which caused the loss of services promised by treaty; and a disregard for the sovereignty of tribes, manifest in the building of infrastructure on Indian land without honest consultation or consent. In Deloria’s time, that infrastructure was dams, which flooded forests and farmland on many reservations, including Standing Rock. Today, as Dave Archambault II, the tribe’s chairman, suggested in an editorial for the Times, that infrastructure is pipelines. “Tribes have always paid the price for America’s prosperity,” he wrote.

Solidere turned Beirut into a city of exclusion. Its iconic architecture and tax incentives attracted foreign investment, in turn helping the country’s economic recovery. But more buildings were torn down during reconstruction than were destroyed by the war, transforming Beirut’s war-scarred layers of history from the Roman, Mamluk, Ottoman and French periods into a city without memory.

Trump “may be the last hope for a president who would be good for white people,” remarked Jared Taylor, who runs a white nationalist website called American Renaissance and once founded a think tank dedicated to “scientifically” proving white superiority. Taylor told us that Trump was the first presidential candidate from a major party ever to earn his support because Trump “is talking about policies that would slow the dispossession of whites. That is something that is very important to me and to all racially conscious white people.”

  • As if things in Brazil aren’t tough enough, the wife of the new mayor of São Paulo is saying some strange things (italics mine):

 The wealthy wife of Sao Paulo’s newly elected mayor has become a laughingstock in Brazil after comparing herself to Eva Perón — while giving an interview in her Porsche — and saying the poor just need a hug.

“I always felt like Eva Perón, because I’m more of the people, I feel like one of the people,” said Bia Doria, 56, an artist, while driving her Porsche Cayenne around upscale neighborhoods in Sao Paulo during an interview for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. “I’ve always got on really well with more humble people. Sometimes it’s just a squeeze of the hand; sometimes they want a hug.”

  • This law firm tweeted a perfect string of replies to Trump’s lies about a “rigged” election:


Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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