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Agnès Varda (1928–2019)

Plus: Norway’s Kon-Tiki museum to return Easter Island artefacts | Latinx activists issue open letter to El Museo del Barrio | Erdogan announces plan to turn Hagia Sophia back into a mosque | Getty Trust announces $5m endowment grant to Courtauld Institute of Art | and recommended reading

29 March 2019

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Agnès Varda (1928–2019) | It was announced this morning that the film-maker Agnès Varda has died, at the age of 90. Born Arlette Varda, in Belgium, she fled with her family to south-east France in 1940. After studying photography at the École des Beaux-Arts and history of art at the École du Louvre, she worked as a stills photographer and in 1955 made her first film, La Pointe Courte, regarded as the first film of the Nouvelle Vague. her feature films include Cléo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur and the feminist musical, One Sings, the Other Doesn’t; the documentaries include The Beaches of Agnes, The Gleaners and I and a series of works in memory of Jacques Demy, to whom she was married for nearly 30 years until his death in 1990. In recent years, there have been several exhibitions of her photographs, and art installations. Varda’s many awards include the Golden Lion at Venice in 1985 and an honorary Oscar in 2017.

Norway’s Kon-Tiki museum will return Easter Island artefacts | The Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo has agreed to return several thousand artefacts to Easter Island. The objects were excavated and taken in 1956 by the Norwegian explorer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl, who, according to his son, promised the Rapa Nui authorities that they would be repatriated ‘after they had been analysed and published’. The son has signed the agreement with Chile’s culture ministry on behalf of the museum, the first step in a process that director Martin Biehl suggested may ‘take time’, as the artefacts are relocated to ‘a well-equipped museum’.

Latinx activists issue open letter to El Museo del Barrio | Over 200 Latinx artists, scholars and activists have signed ‘Mirror Manifesto’, an open letter addressed to El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, New York. The letter comes in the wake of several controversies involving the museum, including the since cancelled plan to honour a German art collector and the last week’s decision by the artist Marta Moreno Vega to withdraw from an upcoming exhibition in protest at Rodrigo Moura’s appointment as chief curator. The letter, which can be read in full here, accuses the museum of failing ‘to foster and cultivate Latinx art’ and distinguishes between ‘an elitist institution for Latin American art’ and one that represents ‘a diasporic latinidad’.

Turkey plans to convert Hagia Sophia museum back to a mosque | The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that he plans to turn Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, which has been a museum since 1935, back into a mosque. The landmark has a complex history and is claimed by both Greek Orthodox Christian and Muslim communities, with its status as a museum established as a compromise. The move may be an attempt by Erdogan to win favour for his party’s candidates among more nationalistic voters in the run-up to Turkey’s local elections, according to The Art Newspaper.

Getty Trust announces $5m endowment grant to Courtauld Institute of Art | The J. Paul Getty Trust announced yesterday that it will endow a $5m grant to the Courtauld Institute of Art in support its MA programme in wall painting conservation. The Getty Conservation Institute been a partner of the programme since it began in 1985, and the new funding will be used for scholarships and practical on-site education both in Britain and abroad.

Recommend reading | In Vanity Fair, Michael Shnayerson reports on the battle between ‘mega-dealers’ Larry Gagosian and David Zwirner to represent the estate of Franz West. In The Art Newspaper, Brian Allen considers the contradictions at play for museum directors hoping to achieve high figures – in philanthropic funding as well as visitors.

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