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Ai Weiwei closes Copenhagen show in protest at treatment of refugees

28 January 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Ai Weiwei Closes Show in Protest at Danish Government | Following the Danish government’s astonishingly ill-judged vote to confiscate valuables belonging to refugees, Ai Weiwei has hit back by demanding the early closure of his exhibition in Copenhagen. ‘The way I can protest is that I can withdraw my works from that country. It is very simple, very symbolic,’ Ai told the Guardian. The artist’s show at the Danish capital’s Farschou Foundation was due to run until mid-April, but has closed with immediate effect. Ai is one of a number of major artists who have consistently criticised European governments’ treatment of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. In related news, Banksy’s mural on the walls of London’s French embassy has now been removed, though not before being digitised by Google’s ‘Cultural Institute’ team.

Sony Building Murals at Risk from Redevelopment May be Saved | A pair of monumental murals by artist Dorothea Rockburne are at risk of being destroyed in the planned redevelopment of a Manhattan office building. Rockburne painted the universally praised murals – titled Northern Sky and Southern Sky – in 1993, in what was then Sony’s New York HQ. Now that the upper floors of the building are to be converted into luxury flats, it seems unlikely that the works will survive in their present form. Rockburne, who admits to being ‘heartbroken’ by the news, has suggested that it might be possible to remove the works from the building for installation elsewhere. She will discuss the matter with the developers today. This is not the first time redevelopment has worked to the detriment of the arts: as Gillian Darley explained last year, the threat posed to London’s public art by construction projects is no laughing matter.

Getty to Return Head of Hades to Sicily | Nearly 40 years after it disappeared from the sanctuary of San Francesco Bisconti in Morgantina, a Hellenistic period statue of the head of Hades (Italian language article) is set to return to Sicily from Los Angeles. The head – nicknamed ‘Barbablù’, due to a lick of blue colouring on a curl of its beard – was stolen and illegally exported in the late 1970s, and acquired in good faith by the Getty Museum in 1985. After years of investigation on the Italian side, the statue was identified by its distinctive facial hair, and has now been returned.

Louise Bourgeois’s Home to Open to the Public | A Manhattan townhouse that was home to the late Louise Bourgeois is to open to the public as a museum. The initiative has been organised by the Easton Foundation, a nonprofit organisation Bourgeois set up in the 1980s, which will operate tours of the property. The house, which is as cluttered and dilapidated as the artist’s harrowing work, has been maintained to preserve the distinctive character it had during Bourgeois’s lifetime. We suspect it may not be a destination for arachnophobes

Unterlinden Museum Reopens after Three Year Closure | After a three-year renovation costing some €44 million, the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, France has finally reopened its doors. The museum’s exhibition space has doubled, and a new Herzog & De Meuron- designed wing now houses its modern art collection. The Unterlinden, which is home to Grunewald’s Isenheim altarpiece, is one of the most important cultural draws in the Alsace region. We look forward to returning.

Enthusiastic Crowds Break Down Tretyakov Gallery Doors | Last week, crowds waiting in line for the Tretyakov Gallery’s hugely popular Valentin Serov show lost their patience and stormed the museum’s main entrance. Insurrectionary? Not really. The exhibition was entering the final few days of its run, and tickets were in short supply. Further to this, temperatures outside the Tretyakov had sunk to -15 degrees Celsius. It’s become de rigueur to describe the Moscow art scene as ‘exciting’, but we didn’t know the half of it.

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