Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
- LA’s top art groups have a race problem on their boards (among other places). Deborah Vankin and Makeda Easter report for LA Times:
The Times surveyed 10 major Southern California museums and 10 major performing arts companies and venues. We simply asked for three numbers: board members, board members who are Black, Indigenous or other people of color, and more specifically, board members who are Black.
At the museums the Times surveyed, Black members made up just 5.4% of the boards — 18 people out of 334 seats at the table — even though Black people make up an estimated 9% of L.A. County’s population. Three of the 10 museums had just one Black board member, and three museums had none. Broadening to look at all BIPOC board members, the discrepancy is even more startling: While nearly 74% of LA County is nonwhite, only 19.5% of the museum board members identified as nonwhite.
- Architect Gregory Ain created a modernist house for an exhibition in 1950 at the Museum of
Neoliberal, I mean, Modern Art, and Eve M. Kahn interviews the family that lives in it today:
Ain, who died in 1988, collaborated on the house with his colleagues Alfred Day and Joseph Johnson and with museum staff members, including Philip Johnson and Natalie Hoyt. (The team’s original 51.5-inch model of the house, which surfaced a few years ago, has returned to MoMA.)
The furnishings were practical, mass-produced pieces, by prominent figures like Charles and Ray Eames. Hanging on the walnut walls were paintings and prints by Georges Braque, René Magritte and Edward Hopper. Light bulbs were tucked into ceiling coves. Woman’s Home Companion described the interior as an ideal setting “for the odds and ends of family living that are bound to turn up in any happy home.”
Cornelia Cotton, a nonagenarian in Croton-on-Hudson who is a writer and gallery owner, remembers touring the Ain house at MoMA (entry tickets were 50 cents). “It was very plain, it was very simple and affordable and appealing,” she said.
- Did paying ransom for a stolen painting by René Magritte inadvertently fund terrorism? Joshua Hunt writes about the whole fascinating affair:
In 2013, nearly two years after Olympia’s recovery, thieves broke into the Van Buuren Museum, yet another private home preserved for its cultural significance. Built in 1928 by the Dutch banker David van Buuren and his wife, Alice, the red brick building in a municipality south of Brussels called Uccle is filled with paintings, sculptures, and a piano that once belonged to Erik Satie. In a reception room where the Van Buurens had once greeted esteemed guests like Christian Dior, Jacques Prévert, and Magritte, the walls were adorned with James Ensor’s Shrimps and Shells, and The Thinker by Kees van Dongen. In a little more than two minutes, a couple hours before sunrise on July 16, the intruders escaped with these paintings, plus 10 other works. Neighbors saw as many as four men leaving the crime scene in a BMW; one said he heard them speaking French.
- Everyone should be concerned about the firing of Emily Wilder from the Associated Press. It highlights that journalists continue to be targeted for opinions that have nothing to do with their work (Wilder was part of Jewish Voices of Peace in college and was working for AP covering the Western US). Democracy Now did a good interview with her and it’s worth mentioning the Peter Thiel connection Amy Goodman cites in the interview (Peter Kafka, writing for Recode, mentions journalists can tweet about Black Lives Matter but not Palestine.):
- Samantha Culp opines about the NFT funhouse mirror in the art community, and the fact that they have just reinforced the same old thinking:
Finally, there is the argument that NFTs are democratizing the art world by giving artists direct access to the public, potential collectors and each other. With all the hierarchies and entrenched inequalities of the commercial art world, the idea of bypassing gatekeepers is attractive and of course has animated many other art movements in the past (some of which eventually get co-opted by the art market anyhow, like street art).
In the present landscape, however, structural obstacles and asymmetries still exist. Minting an NFT costs up-front money in the form of Ethereum “gas fees” and other per-platform costs, restricting access to those who can afford it. More significantly, there is the fact that those with large preexisting fanbases or more established art credentials are better positioned for success. Most artists experiencing big sales fit into one of these categories; social capital, a key part of the traditional art world, still matters.
The largest NFT platforms have thrived despite — or because of — murkiness around these and other issues. Again, we have a mirror to the often-obscure systems and power relations of the traditional art world.
- The New York Times (which has done a terrible job at reporting the recent violence by Israel against Palestinians in the occupied regions, btw) has created this good multimedia feature about the Tulsa race massacre, which devastated the affluence of the Black community in that city in 1921.
- MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of the richest man in the world (Jeff Bezos), has been giving away billions during the pandemic — $6 billion to be exact. But then there’s this (emphasis mine):
Keeping the money can also be difficult. John D. Rockefeller’s adviser Frederick T. Gates warned the tycoon that his fortune was like an avalanche: “You must distribute it faster than it grows! If you do not, it will crush you, and your children, and your children’s children!” Because money begets money, billionaires such as Bezos—and even some who are trying a little harder to give it away—struggle to make a dent in their wealth. Scott, who has promised to keep giving “until the safe is empty,” was richer at the end of the year than before she handed out her $6 billion.
Also, did you know she had Toni Morrison as a professor in college?
Her professor at Princeton, Toni Morrison, called her “really one of the best” creative-writing students she’d ever had and wrote a blurb for her first novel, The Testing of Luther Albright, which won a 2006 American Book Award. Her second novel, Traps, was published in 2013. Writing is how Scott prefers to communicate. Writing was how Scott intended to spend her life. The whole billionaire thing was just an accident.
- Scholar Rosa Brooks wanted to fix law enforcement and decided to become a police officer in the process. Patrick Blanchfield, writing for the New Republic, reports:
Rosa Brooks’s Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City promises without question to be the cop memoir for the late 2010s and early 2020s. An accomplished scholar, journalist, and author who has moved in the loftiest legal, nonprofit, and foreign policy circles, Brooks brings a distinctive perspective to the police memoir genre, which boasts few women’s voices to begin with. Her narrative is pitched directly at contemporary anxieties over police violence, and begins with consciousness of a widespread sentiment that American policing is broken, and no one knows if it can be “repaired.”
As an account of what policing can be like for police themselves, Tangled Up in Blue is singularly frank, and its depictions of the civilians who encounter police possess a rare mixture of empathy, self-consciousness, and well-hedged appeals to context. But Brooks’s book is also about more than just policing as an institution, or even her own experiences as a cop: It is a deeply personal family memoir, and a meditation on questions of race, class, gender, and family inheritances. Some readers may find it enthralling; others may find it distasteful. Whatever the case, it is certainly revealing, sometimes painfully so.
“I joined the DC Metropolitan Police Department Reserve Corps because it was there,” writes Brooks. “It was there, and I was curious.”
- The story of professor Andrea Smith, the white woman who pretended (and still does) that she is Native American, as told by Sarah Viren for the New York Times:
Although the United States has a long history of white people “playing Indian,” as the scholar Philip J. Deloria calls it in his book of the same name, the 1990s saw the beginning of what would eventually be significant pushback by Native Americans against so-called Pretendians or Pretend Indians, including the successful passage of a national law prohibiting non-Native people from marketing their art as “Indian.” Smith found her voice within that protest movement in 1991 when she published an essay in Ms. Magazine calling out white feminists and New Agers for co-opting Native identities.
“When white ‘feminists’ see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming very close to destroying the earth, they often want to disassociate themselves from their whiteness,” Smith wrote. “They do this by opting to ‘become Indian.’ In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism. Of course, white ‘feminists’ want to become only partly Indian. They do not want to be a part of our struggles for survival against genocide, and they do not want to fight for treaty rights or an end to substance abuse or sterilization abuse.”
It was the kind of article that would have gone viral, if viral had existed back then, and it hinted at the forceful voice that would define Smith’s activism and scholarship. Patti Jo King, a Cherokee academic and later one of the first people to confront Smith about her identity, says she taught that essay in her university classes for years. Before questioning Smith about her ancestry at a private meeting in 2007, King actually opened by saying how much she had enjoyed her article calling out fake Indians.
- Everything about this story is, um, wow. I’ll let the title and lede entertain you:
‘Unathletic’ alligator with ‘terrible arthritis’ escapes Wisconsin zoo
The owner of a Wisconsin zoo is stupefied over how his “unathletic” and “overweight” alligator got loose, which was later safely returned.
- This is wild, as the giant Moa bird is believed to have gone extinct by the 15th century:
Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.