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News / May 10, 2018

News in Brief: Christie’s Releases NGC’s Chagall and More

Plus: Heffel challenges art-export ruling in federal court, and Banksy and Ai Weiwei shows are coming to Canada.
By the time most Canadians realized Chagall's <em>La Tour Eiffel</em>, deaccessioned from the National Gallery of Canada collection, was up for sale, it was already on preview at the Christie's showroom in Hong Kong. Photo: Instagram/@rebecca_wei_wei. By the time most Canadians realized Chagall's La Tour Eiffel, deaccessioned from the National Gallery of Canada collection, was up for sale, it was already on preview at the Christie's showroom in Hong Kong. Photo: Instagram/@rebecca_wei_wei.

Art and the Border (Chagall Included)

This morning—thanks to an anonymous donor—the National Gallery of Canada and Christie’s confirmed they have worked out an arrangement regarding the return of a contested Chagall. Said a joint release, “After revisiting the terms of our contract, the National Gallery of Canada and Christie’s confirm that La tour Eiffel by Marc Chagall will be released from sale by joint agreement. A mutually satisfactory financial agreement has been reached, which is not at the expense of the National Gallery of Canada. We are now working together on next steps to return the painting to the Gallery.” Responding to a follow-up question from Canadian Art via email, gallery representatives said, “The National Gallery of Canada will not pay a penalty for the withdrawal of the painting from the sale. The Gallery and Christie’s have come to a financial agreement which is being supported by a generous donor, who has requested anonymity and non-disclosure of the amount.” (press release)

And it has come to light that the person who signed off on the Chagall being exported from Canada in the first place is a curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Agence QMI reports that it has been able to find out little for certain about lingering Chagall questions—except for the fact that the government-designated expert who signed off on its out-of-country export for auction is a curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario. (The AGO declined to comment to both Agence QMI and to Canadian Art on this point.) Agence QMI also reports that the Secretariat for Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board themselves only learned of the Chagall exportation when news of its auction at Christie’s New York hit the Art Market Monitor website in March. The Heritage Ministry also confirmed that the curator/expert who did the sign off did not provide any reasons to justify the export—nor were they required by law to do so. (Agence QMI/TVA Nouvelles)

Also: just as the Chagall debacle has brought Canada’s art-export rules into wider view, Heffel auction house is taking to court over a different art-export ruling. The Globe reports that Heffel—Canada’s largest auction house—“has asked the Federal Court of Canada to quash a decision by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board that prevented the shipment of a French Impressionist painting” to an British buyer last year. The painting in question is Iris bleus, jardin du Petit Gennevilliers (1892) by Gustave Caillebotte. It was sold for $678,500 to a British buyer by Heffel. But Art Gallery of Greater Victoria chief curator Michelle Jacques, hired as an expert examiner for its export permissions, said it should not leave the country, and CPERB supported her decision on appeal. (The AGO eventually bought it instead.) The case is due be heard in court May 30. President David Heffel tells Canadian Art that ultimately what is needed is a review and modernization of the legislation itself: “We strongly disagree with the process and outcome of the hearings before the CCPERB Review Board. We have commenced a judicial review of the Review Board’s decisions in the Federal Court. Out of respect for the Federal Court, we will be making our comments in the legal proceeding.” (Globe and Mail)

Big Shows En Route

The Gardiner Museum will debut a new exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s ceramic works in 2019 entitled “Ai Weiwei: Unbroken.” This will be his first major exhibition in Canada since “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” opened at the AGO in 2013. The show will look at the special place of ceramics and porcelain works in his practice. Significant early ceramic works including Colored Pots, Oil Spills, Sunflower Seeds, and Han Dynasty Urn with Coca Cola Logo, many of which will be displayed in Toronto for the first time. (press release)

A vast—and unauthorized—Banksy exhibition is to have its North American debut in Toronto. The Toronto Star reports that “The Art of Banksy” opens June 13 for a four-week run at 213 Sterling Road in the city’s west end. It is an unauthorized exhibition of more than 80 works by the world famous (and anonymous) British street artist, reportedly valued at over $35 million. It has been curated from private collections by Steve Lazarides, Banksy’s former agent, who had a falling out with the artist in 2008. “The Art of Banksy” has been displayed in Melbourne, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Auckland and, most recently, Berlin.” (Toronto Star)

Artists from Coast to Coast

CARFAC wants to help all Canadian artists targeted inappropriately by the Canada Revenue Agency. CARFAC’s announcement follows news of Halifax artist Steven Higgins being dinged some $14K by the CRA after being designated a “hobbyist” rather than a professional artist. Says a release, “CARFAC is providing Mr. Higgins with assistance during his appeal process because the potential for his case setting a precedent for all artists is untenable. We are now aware that other artists have been audited or reassessed recently for a variety of reasons, and we are working to determine if there are any other worrisome trends. We invite artists to contact us if they have experienced an audit from CRA recently, so that we can gain a greater understanding of the issue.” The Canadian Arts Coalition has also formed an Artist Taxation Working group which is writing a letter to the Minister of National Revenue. (press release)

A complete map has been released for Resilience, a cross-Canada billboard project featuring 50 Indigneous women artists. The 167 billboards are along highways and in cities, and on large-scale posters in Northern communities. A release states, “It spans a land in which too many First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls have gone missing.” The project will take place between June 1, 2018 and Aug. 1, 2018. Billboard and poster locations can be found at (Resilience website)

Museum and Gallery Updates

Ann Thomas is filling a leadership vacuum at the National Gallery of Canada—including that of Luce Lebart, who departed in March. The Ottawa Citizen reports that “The senior curator of photographs since 1994, Thomas has recently stepped in to help fill the leadership vacuum caused by two high-profile departures at the institution. She is currently acting as the gallery’s chief curator, taking over from deputy director Paul Lang, who left to become director of Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg in France earlier this year. Thomas is also overseeing the CPI after the resignation of Luce Lebart, who quietly left the director job in March after just a year and a half in the position. Lebart, a native of France who moved to Ottawa to work at the gallery, wrote in an email that she has embarked on a “new wonderful photographic adventure that brings me back to Europe.” She did not elaborate. Thomas plans to stay at the gallery at least until the chief curator position is filled.” (Ottawa Citizen)

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is creating a new Wing for World Cultures and Togetherness, to be inaugurated in one year’s time. The project is made possible by a major donation from Stéphan Crétier and Stéphany Maillery, whose names will title the wing. The large-scale project promises to celebrate diversity and foster intercultural dialogue through art. The new wing will be installed on the 4th floor of the Jean‑Noël Desmarais Pavilion, which has been vacant since the MMFA moved its European art collections to the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace. The 15 galleries of the 1,000-square-metre-plus wing will showcase the museum’s archeology and world cultures collection, comprising more than 10,000 objects. (press release)

More announcements have come from Open Space in Victoria following controversial (in some circles) termination of its executive director’s employment. A release states that the interim board’s priorities are restaffing the organization, reinstating programming, and holding an August 11 AGM at which new board members will be elected. (press release)

Award Wins

Moyra Davey has won the $50K Scotiabank Photography Award. Besides the cash prize, Davey receives a major solo show and a book project to launch in Toronto in 2019. (Canadian Art)

The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec is honouring Jana Sterbak with the title of Compagne des arts et des lettres du Québec. Born in Prague in 1955 and currently living in Montréal, Sterbak is a multi-disciplinary artist whose works include sculpture, installation, photography, video or performance. She often uses unconventional materials such as ice, bread, hair, sweat, lead or fire to realize her works—and is the maker of the somewhat infamous (pre-Lady Gaga) meat dress of 1987. (press release)

Artist Charlene Vickers, along with artist duo Hannah Jickling and Helen Reed, have won the 2018 VIVA Awards. The awards will officially be presented on May 24 in Vancouver. Established in 1988, the VIVA Awards are funded by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts. The VIVA Awards were created to nurture the advancement of the visual arts in British Columbia and their appreciation by the public. Providing a minimum of $12,000 annually, these awards celebrate exemplary achievement by British Columbia artists in mid-career, chosen for outstanding accomplishment and commitment by an independent jury. (VIVA Awards website)

Meagan Musseau has won the 2018 Emerging Atlantic Canada Artist Residency. The award, valued at $30,000, comprises an eight-week residency at Banff Centre, followed by a speaking tour to public venues across Canada. Musseau is an interdisciplinary visual artist of Mi’kmaq and French ancestry from the community of Curling in the Bay of Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador––Elamstukwek, Ktaqmkuk territory of Mi’kma’ki. Musseau works with customary art practices and new media, such as beadwork, basketry, land-based action and installation to explore notions of memory, language, and the relationship between land and body, object and narrative. Musseau graduated with a BFA in Visual Art from Grenfell Campus Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Akimbo)

Market Moves

Toronto dealer Cooper Cole’s presentation of Tau Lewis won the Frame Award at Frieze New York. Says a release, “The prize acknowledges the gallery’s exceptional sculptural presentation by Tau Lewis in Frieze New York’s Frame section. Featuring ambitious solo shows by 19 emerging galleries and advised by leading curators Andrew Bonacina and Ruba Katrib, Frame brings together solo artist presentations by some of the most exciting young galleries from across the world. This year’s jury of emerging international art experts included Courtenay Finn (curator, Aspen Art Museum), Elena Filipovic (director and curator, Kunsthalle Basel), and Jamillah James (curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles). Want to know more about the work? Read Yaniya Lee’s interview with the artist. (press release, Canadian Art)

Ontario art collectors may see justice in sentencing of fraudulent New York art dealer. Reports Bloomberg, “A Manhattan art dealer pleaded guilty to using paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and other renowned artists as bait to defraud collectors”—some of them from Ontario—“and investors out of millions of dollars. Ezra Chowaiki, who was the face of Chowaiki & Co. Fine Art Ltd. on Park Avenue before its bankruptcy filing in November, entered his plea Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. He agreed to forfeit $16 million and 25 works of art, including paintings by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Edgar Degas.” It continues, “Chowaiki, 49, faces as long as 20 years in prison for wire fraud, though prosecutors have agreed to recommend a term of four to five years.” (Bloomberg)

Across the Pond

How a painting from the Max Stern legacy (accidentally) came to light in recent years. Reports Sara Angel in Maclean’s, “On May 7 international dignitaries travelled to Munich for a remarkable ceremony, one in which Women of Weinsberg was recovered by its rightful owners, the Max Stern estate …Women of Weinsberg appeared on the radar of the Max Stern estate in 2014, entirely by chance. Philip Dombowsky, the archivist of the National Gallery of Canada’s Max Stern papers, was doing research at the Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague when he found a series of letters between Stern and a former director of the institute, Hans Schneider.” But: “the Nazi-plundered painting will remain in the tiny German town that has been its home for nearly 50 years.” (Maclean’s)

The Canadian Culture Centre in Paris is reopening with an exhibition by Kent Monkman. “Beauty and the Beasts / La Belle et la Bête” launches the programming of the reopened Canadian Cultural Centre, now located at 130 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The artist selected, from French museum collections, 10 “works and artifacts representative of objects and animals now dispossessed of the powers that Indigenous cultures attributed to them,” says a release. “He makes them the heart of an exhibition that examines the relationship between animals and humans, and invites us to think about the concept of cultural appropriation.” The exhibition opens May 17. (e-flux)