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The week in art news – Jimmie Durham (1940–2021)

19 November 2021

The American sculptor, essayist and poet Jimmie Durham (1940–2021) died on Wednesday in Berlin, at the age of 81. Born in Texas, Durham worked for a time as a mechanic before moving to Geneva to attend its École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Having moved back to the United States later in the 1970s he became involved with the American Indian Movement and started showing in New York galleries, making work – using materials such as bone, stone and other found objects – that challenged Native American stereotypes and oppression (though Durham’s claims to Cherokee ancestry have been disputed by Cherokee representatives). He lived in Mexico for several years before moving to Europe, where he has lived (in Naples and Berlin) since 1994. A retrospective of his work ran at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2017, and in 2019 he won the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.

The Lebanese-American painter and writer Etel Adnan (1925–2021) has died at the age of 96. In the late 1950s, while working as a philosophy professor in California, Adnan began what she called ‘painting in Arabic’. She leaves behind more than six decades of work on grand themes such as political unrest, displacement and landscape – some of which is currently on show at the Guggenheim in New York. In 2018, Gabriel Coxhead visited the artist in her home in Paris as she was preparing for an exhibition at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern and the interview appeared in the June 2018 issue of Apollo. Read the interview here.

Inigo Philbrick, a former dealer in post-war and contemporary art with galleries in London and Miami, faces up to 20 years in prison for defrauding art collectors, investors and lenders of as much as $86m. Philbrick disappeared in 2019 after accusations of selling the same works of art to different investors, but was arrested on Vanuatu in June 2020. Pleading guilty, Philbrick has agreed to forfeit that sum of money to the government as part of a plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Thursday. His sentencing is scheduled for March.

The University of Oxford has published a list of 145 objects in its collections that were looted by British troops in Benin in 1897. Of the 100 items owned by the university (45 objects are on loan from private owners), three belong to the Ashmolean Museum’s collection and 97 to the Pitt Rivers Museum, which has compiled the report.

The British government has said the return of the Parthenon marbles to Athens is a matter for the British Museum. The statement from Downing Street was given to the Guardian this week on the occasion of a meeting between prime minister Boris Johnson and his Greek counterpart, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who raised the issue of the marbles’ return. The statement seems to be a shift away from Johnson’s last public comment on the matter, in March this year, when he rejected the idea of their returning to Greece.