Apollo Magazine

Iwona Blazwick steps down from the Istanbul Biennial

Plus: art dealer Brent Sikkema found dead in Brazil | Scottish museums face funding crisis

The Istanbul Biennial has been postponed to 2025 and its curator Iwona Blazwick has stepped down, the Art Newspaper reports. In summer 2023, Blazwick, a former director of the Whitechapel Gallery, was appointed curator of the event by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV). This was against the recommendation of the biennial’s own advisory board (of which Blazwick was a member), which had unanimously nominated the Turkish curator Defne Ayas. In October, four artists withdrew from the Biennial in protest at the IKSV’s choice of curator; by that point, more than 80 artists and curators had signed an open letter calling for the IKSV to be more transparent in its selection procedures. This is not the first time Ayas has been at the centre of controversy. When she curated the Turkish pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015 a catalogue accompanying the exhibition referred to the ‘Armenian genocide’, a banned term in Turkey. It is thought that the resulting furore may have influenced the IKSV’s decision. In future, IKSV executives will be required to choose from a shortlist of three candidates put forward by the advisory board.

In only its sixth year of existence, V&A Dundee is halving the number of major exhibitions it mounts, from two to one a year because of rising costs and shortfalls in revenue. The museum first cut its temporary programming in 2022, but has now made the cut permanent. There are now 18 fewer staff members than there were when the museum opened its doors in 2018. The Scottish government has increased V&A Dundee’s budget by £800,000 in the financial year 2024/25, but this is unlikely to be enough to make up for what the museum’s director Leonie Bell described last week as ‘year on year of mitigating measures’. The situation is part of a grim narrative for Scottish galleries: The Scotsman reported last week that executives at the National Galleries of Scotland, comprising the National, Portrait and Modern museums, are ‘struggling to find a path to a balanced budget’ even after years of cost-cutting measures.

The art dealer Brent Sikkema was found murdered in his apartment in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. The 75-year-old dealer was the co-founder of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., a New York gallery whose roster of artists includes Kara Walker, Arturo Herrera, Tony Feher and Jeffrey Gibson, who is representing the United States at this year’s Venice Biennale. Sikkema had worked in the art world since 1971, when he became director of exhibitions at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York. A suspect, a Cuban national, has been arrested. It is reported that the fatal stabbing was connected to a robbery and that the suspect allegedly stole $3,000 in cash and valuables from Sikkema’s home. Sikkema Jenkins & Co. issued a statement saying that it ‘grieves this tremendous loss and will continue on in his spirit’.

Stephen Brooks, CEO of auction house Phillips, has stepped down after less than three years in the role, reports Handelsblatt. The company’s executive chairman Ed Dolman, who led the company from 2014 to 2021, will step in as interim leader. Under Brooks, previously an executive at Christie’s, Phillips opened a new office in Hong Kong. Its global auction sales were down by 15 per cent in 2023 on the previous year’s total (a record year). Phillips told Artnews that Brooks has resigned ‘for personal reasons’.

After a 2022 FBI raid in which several fake Basquiat paintings were seized, the Orlando Museum of Art is facing severe financial distress. In a recording of a meeting obtained by the New York Times, in December CEO and executive director Cathryn Mattson described the situation to trustees and donors as a ‘crisis’, in which the museum’s reserves are exhausted and its lines of credit nearly at an end. Mattson also predicted a budgetary shortfall ‘of about $1m’ for the fiscal year ending in June. The museum is also $500,000 in debt after the costs of crisis communications and legal fees after the raid. It has nevertheless been criticised for a lack of transparency, including the withholding of the results of an internal investigation.

Exit mobile version