Jonas Mekas (1922–2019)

Plus: National Museum of Scotland to return Native American skulls | Aaron Fowler wins $10,000 prize from Seattle Art Museum | and Trevor Paglen’s space sculpture hindered by US shutdown

23 January 2019

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Jonas Mekas (1922–2019) | The film-maker, critic, photographer and poet Jonas Mekas, often referred to as ‘the godfather of American avant-garde cinema’, has died at the age of 96. Lithuanian-born Mekas arrived in the US in 1949, as a refugee. He was the co-founder (with his brother Adolfas) of Film Culture and in 1958 became the Village Voice’s first film critic, writing its ‘Movie Journal’ column until 1975. After founding the Film-Makers’ Co-Operative and Film-Makers’ Cinematheque in New York in the 1960s, he was one of the five founders of Anthology Film Archives as a place to screen and preserve avant-garde films. Mekas’s diary films have influenced film-makers from Andy Warhol (whom he helped shoot Empire) to Jim Jarmusch. He represented Lithuania at the Venice Biennale in 2005, and has been the subject of retrospectives around the world.

National Museum of Scotland to return Native American skulls | The National Museum of Scotland has agreed to return the skulls of the Beothuk chief Nonosbasut and his wife Demasduit to Canada, the BBC reports. The skulls were discovered in Newfoundland in the early 19th century by the Scottish-Canadian explorer William Eppes Cormack, who sent them to the University Museum in Edinburgh, after which they were moved to the National Museum in the 1850s. The decision to transfer the skulls to the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa follows a request from the Canadian government in 2018.

Aaron Fowler wins $10,000 prize from Seattle Art Museum | Aaron Fowler has been named as the recipient of the 2019 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize, awarded biennially by Seattle Art Museum to an emerging black artist. Fowler, known for his sculptural assemblages, will receive $10,000 and a solo exhibition at the museum. Previous winners of the prize include Theaster Gates (2011) and Sondra Perry (2017).

Trevor Paglen’s space sculpture hindered by US shutdown | The deployment of Trevor Paglen’s sculpture Orbital Reflector, which was launched into space more than a month ago, has been delayed by the continuing US government shutdown, the Art Newspaper reports. A statement from the Nevada Museum of Art, which commissioned the work, explained that the closure of the Federal Communications Commission has hindered the tracking of the object; however, the statement also declared that ‘all systems appear healthy’, and that the museum ‘is hopeful that the satellite can withstand the wait’.