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Cecilia Alemani appointed artistic director of the 59th Venice Biennale

Plus: China blocks return of missing Kiefer works found by German museum director | Workers at New York’s Shed seek to unionise | Florian Hufnagl (1948–2019) | and recommended reading

10 January 2020

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Cecilia Alemani has been appointed artistic director of the 59th Venice Biennale | Cecilia Alemani will be the next director of the International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2021. Alemani is currently director of High Line Art, the public art programme for the High Line in Manhattan; in 2017, she served as curator of the Italian Pavilion at Venice, where gathered together the work of artists Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi, and Adelita Husni-Bey.

Akbar Padamsee (1928–2020) | The Indian artist Akbar Padamsee has died aged 91. Padamsee was born in Gujarat in 1928 but moved to Paris soon after graduating in 1951 with a degree in Fine Art from the Sir J. J. School of Art in Mumbai. Though he is best known for his contributions to Modern Indian painting, Padamsee was a multidisciplinary artist who also made his name in sculpture, film and photography. Working internationally, his works have been exhibited in New York, London and Tokyo and, in 2010, he received the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour. 

China blocks return of missing Kiefer works found by German museum director | Beate Reifenscheid, director of the Ludwig Museum, told German reporters on Wednesday that she had tracked down six missing works by Anselm Kiefer at an art storage warehouse in Shenzhen, China. The works travelled to China as part of an unofficial touring retrospective of the artist, but once they reached their final destination, the Jupiter Museum of Art in Shenzhen, the show never opened and the Ludwig lost track of the works. Despite threatening to claim damages, Reifenscheid says that the Shenzhen museum has refused to return the works and Chinese authorities have not intervened. 

Workers at New York’s Shed seek to unionise | Front of house staff working at the Shed in New York filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday and are planning to hold a union election. According to sources quoted in Hyperallergic’s report, the main reason for unionising would be to gain more bargaining power in shaping the institution’s working conditions. A representative for the Shed has stated that it plans ‘support our employees in their decision on this matter’. 

Florian Hufnagl (1948–2019) | The German art historian and director of Munich’s State Museum of Applied Arts and Design, Florian Hufnagl, has died aged 72. Hufnagl was an independent art historian until 1980, when he joined the State Museum of Applied Arts and Design as a curator. He was the director of the museum between 1990 and 2014, and from 1998 to 2013 served as chairman of the board of directors of the Bavarian State Museums. 

Recommended reading | Eliza Apperly reports in the Guardian on the efforts of Hilke Wagner, director of the Albertinum in Dresden, to engage in constructive conversations with the city’s sizeable far-right. Deirdra Funcheon chronicles the battle for works by outsider artist Purvis Young in The Washington Post. A comic for The New Yorker by M. Dean offers a humorous take on the average gallery-goer’s attempts to engage with abstract art.