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The week in art news – Frances Morris to step down from Tate Modern

Plus: Pierre Soulages (1919–2022) | Marc Spiegler to step down from Art Basel, with Noah Horowitz the fair’s new global director | Arts Council England delays investment announcement | Climate protestors target more museums

28 October 2022

Frances Morris is stepping down as director of Tate Modern, London, in April 2023. Morris has worked at Tate for 35 years, joining the institution as a curator in 1987. Promoted to head of displays at Tate Modern in 2000, the year that the gallery opened, she oversaw (with Iwona Blazwick) the inaugural collection displays – which at first caused controversy but which have since provided a model that Tate Modern has continued to use (and that has been copied by museums and galleries worldwide). In 2006, Morris became director of the international art collection, responsible for Tate’s global acquisitions strategy, while also curating major retrospectives of Louise Bourgeois (2007), Yayoi Kusama (2012) and Agnes Martin (2015). She replaced Chris Dercon in the top job in 2016, becoming the institution’s first woman director. In recent years, Tate Modern has focused on bolstering the global nature of its collections – Morris spoke to Apollo in 2016 of the ‘need to look at the overlooked’ – while continuing to put on major surveys of canonical figures such as Alberto Giacometti (2017) and, most recently, Paul Cézanne (2022). 

The French painter Pierre Soulages has died at the age of 102. Known as the master of outrenoir (‘beyond black’), Soulages developed his signature black monochrome canvases as a means of playing both with the endless depths provided by this single colour and with the white light that reflects off the surface of the paint. Born in Rodez in the south of France in 1919, Soulages became a key participant in the Nouvelle École de Paris of the 1940s and ’50s with canvases that featured bold, calligraphic black strokes on white ground, influenced by Abstract Expressionism in New York – where his works in turn became hugely popular. After Soulages’s US dealer Samuel Kootz closed his gallery in 1966, the painter suffered something of a spell in the critical wilderness – though he continued exhibiting around the world, including an acclaimed show in Dakar in 1974. In 1979 he developed his first outrenoir paintings, which were displayed at the Pompidou that year. A commission followed for 104 monochrome stained-glass windows for the Romanesque abbey of Sainte-Foy at Conques, not far from Rodez. Soulages continued to refine outrenoir for the final four decades of his life, working with a great variety of materials and techniques to create complex textures. The Musée Soulages opened in Rodez in 2014; in 2019, the Louvre hosted a special exhibition in honour of his 100th birthday.

Marc Spiegler is stepping down as global director of Art Basel after more than a decade, to be replaced by Noah Horowitz, who returns to the fair after a brief stint as head of gallery and private dealer services at Sotheby’s. Spiegler joined MCH Group, the Swiss megafair’s parent company, as co-director of Art Basel in 2007, stepping up to global director in 2012. He has overseen the launch of the fair’s Hong Kong edition in 2013 and its Paris edition this year, while also navigating the pandemic through the development of online viewing rooms – a difficult financial period for the company, which saw James Murdoch buying a stake of 49 per cent in MCH Group in December 2020. In all, Spiegler has now overseen 43 editions of the fair – in Basel, Hong Kong, Miami Beach and now Paris. Noah Horowitz served under Spiegler as director of Americas from 2015–21 before his surprise move to Sotheby’s – an experience he has described as ‘eye-opening’, and that has seen him launch a primary market channel at the auction-house. In a statement, Spiegler said: ‘Leading the next stage of Art Basel’s evolution will take many years and a different set of skills. It has come time to pass the baton.’

Arts Council England has delayed a planned announcement of its investment programme for the next four years – a decision that ACE said was taken ‘following discussions with the [UK government’s] Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)’, adding that the announcement will be made ‘as soon as possible within the coming days’. The investment programme details the amount of funding available for the period from 2023–26 for national portfolio organisations including museums, theatres and publishers, from an overall budget of £428m; earlier this year, ACE revealed that it had received a record 1,730 applications. The announcement had been due to take place in Bradford on Wednesday 26 October; it will now be a digital event.

Climate activists have continued to target art museums in Europe to highlight their cause. At the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, protestors from Letzte Generation (Last Generation) threw mashed potato over a Monet, while at the Mauritshuis in The Hague an activist tried to glue his head to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. In both cases, arrests were made and the paintings, protected by glass, were unharmed.

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