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The week in art news – Klaus Biesenbach appointed director of Neue Nationalgalerie

Plus: Maqdala objects privately restituted to Ethiopia | Cao Fei wins Deutsche Börse photography prize | and San Francisco to get a new Institute of Contemporary Art

10 September 2021

Klaus Biesenbach has been appointed as director of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The news comes just over a week after the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, where Biesenbach is currently artistic director, announced the appointment of Johanna Burton to run the institution alongside him. In his new role Biesenbach will be in charge of the Neue Nationalgalerie, which recently reopened after a five-year refurbishment, and the yet-to-open Museum of the 20th Century, currently under construction. The same annoucement by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation revealed that curatorial duo Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath have been appointed as co-directors of the Hamburger Bahnhof, which houses the state collection of contemporary art. All three take up their posts in Berlin in January 2022.

A collection of objects looted by British forces after the Battle of Maqdala in 1868 has been restituted to Ethiopia. The objects had been purchased earlier this year by the writer Tahir Shah, through his Scheherazade Foundation. In June, Shah negotiated a settlement with Busby auction-house in Bridport after a Coptic Bible and three beakers made of horn that had been withdrawn from auction on the eve of a sale, in response to calls from the Ethiopian government; Shah bought a second collection of items from an unnamed dealer in Brussels. The Ethiopian ambassador to the UK, to whom the objects were restituted in a ceremony in London on Wednesday, has described the act as the ‘largest single restitution of Maqdala-era artefacts in Ethiopian history’.

Cao Fei is the winner of this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Thursday. The Chinese artist, whose work explores the relationship between humans and new technologies, was awarded the prestigious £30,000 prize for her solo exhibition ‘Blueprints’, which took place at the Serpentine in London last year. A group exhibition of work by all four shortlisted artists is at the Photographers’ Gallery until 26 September.

A new Institute of Contemporary Art is set to open in San Francisco next summer. The project to build a kunsthalle for contemporary art is an initiative of the Minnesota Street Project Foundation, an arts non-profit founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Deborah and Andy Rappaport. ‘We are a […] museum that prioritizes artists over art holdings, individuals over institutions, and equity and expansion of the canon,’ a mission statement on the museum’s website reads.

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