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Architect Zaha Hadid has died at the age of 65

Plus: Taipei triumphs with visitor figures | Further comment on Palmyra | Elisabeth Murdoch launches £100,000 art prize for women | Increased security for Italy’s cultural attractions | and the Getty awards $8.45 million for new edition of Pacific Standard Time

31 March 2016

Zaha Hadid: 1950–2016 | Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid has died at the age of 65. Famed for her ambitious designs, many of which made dramatic use of curved forms, the Iraqi-British architect received some of the industry’s most prestigious awards over the course of her career, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011, and the RIBA Gold Medal in 2016. In 2012, she was made a dame. Outspoken and innovative, she will be remembered as one of the leading architects of her generation. Click here to read Will Wiles’s tribute.

Taipei triumphs with visitor figures | The Art Newspaper has published its figures for museum attendance in 2015, with some surprising results alongside expected blockbusters. Nine exhibitions at Taipei’s National Palace Museum topped the list, the most visited of which was a display devoted to the work of Chen Cheng-Po, a Taiwanese artist shot by Chinese Nationalist troops in 1947. Elsewhere, the Guggenheim Bilbao’s Basquiat and Koons exhibitions helped it to outstrip its New York sister museum, with the latter exhibition attracting more than 5,000 visitors per day. The new-look Whitney celebrated its most popular exhibition ever with ‘America is Hard to See’ attracting 5,352 visitors per day, while the Royal Academy’s Ai Weiwei show topped the box office in London. Despite security fears in Paris, the Louvre remains the world’s most visited museum, attracting nearly 2 million more visitors than its closest competitor, the British Museum.

Palmyra: further comment | As the dust settles around the recently recaptured Palmyra, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of the damage inflicted on the ancient city – and enough distance to form an opinion of the implications of the regime’s victory. Of particular significance is the city’s propaganda value. ‘We should be wary of using the development as a sign of either Assad’s will to save Syria’s archaeological sites and history or his military might,’ writes Lizzie Porter for Middle East Eye. In the Independent, meanwhile, native Palmyran Mohamed Alkhateb paints an even darker picture: ‘Assad claims he launched this campaign to protect Syrians and liberate the World Heritage Sites from Isis, but his bombs have destroyed as much of the city and its precious ruins as Isis did.’ As for the possibility of reconstructing the demolished ruins, Goncourt winning novelist Dominique Fernandez is sceptical. ‘I believe Palmyra is irrecoverable, such is the damage to the ancient city,’ he told Le Figaro (French language article).

Elisabeth Murdoch launches £100,000 art prize for women | Media executive and philanthropist Elisabeth Murdoch has announced the establishment of a new prize for mid-career female artists based in the UK. The Freelands Artist Award, as it is to be called, will be open to artists over the age of 50 (unlike the Turner Prize). It is hoped that the initiative will help to address problems of gender imbalance at major UK museums that were revealed in a report by Charlotte Bonham-Carter for Murdoch’s Freelands Foundation last year. In addition to the prize money, the award will grant its winner a solo show at an as yet unnamed regional gallery.

Increased security for Italy’s cultural attractions | Following last week’s terrorist attacks on Brussels, Italian authorities have pledged €300 million in extra funding towards security at the country’s museums and monuments. (Italian language article.) According to officials at the country’s culture ministry, the money will go towards an increased police presence as well as investment in CCTV systems and metal detectors. Local authorities will also collaborate with museums to establish emergency task forces that can react to any potential security risk. The director of the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the museums singled out as being most at risk, seems to be against some of the measures. ‘We are not considering introducing metal detectors’, he told Milan’s Corriere della Sera yesterday. ‘With no specific threats, we cannot consider every visitor to be a potential terrorist. […] The museum is a beacon of enlightened values of tolerance and dialogue.’

The Getty awards $8.45 million for new edition of Pacific Standard Time | The Getty Foundation has granted $8.45 million to 43 Californian organisations participating in the next edition of the Pacific Standard Time initiative. The latest programme, scheduled to begin in September 2017, will explore the role of Latino and Latin American art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Among the main beneficiaries are the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which will receive almost $500,000, and the Hammer Museum, which gets $425,000.

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