1) Proposed Cuts to NEA Voted Down
In Washington, DC, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly against a proposed amendment that would have cut funding to the National Endowment for the Arts by 15 percent. In what is being hailed as a victory for arts advocated in the United States, 297 representatives voted against the amendment, while only 117 voted for it. The Amendment was proposed by the republican representative for Wisconsin, Glenn Grothman. Grothman argued that cutting the funding for the organization would help to “small dent” in the U.S. federal government’s spending. Despite Donald Trump’s stated plans to defund the NEA entirely, the 2018 federal budget actually saw increased spending for both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
2) In Texas, a Massive Painting Addresses a Difficult Subject
In Austin, Texas, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas has taken on the challenge of displaying what could prove to be an extremely controversial artwork. The City I, a 30-foot-long painting by Vincent Valdez, depicts a group of KKK members in a modern setting, painted in photorealistic detail. The Blanton acquired the work in 2016, and has spent the better part of the last two years determining how best to display it, a process that hasn’t been made easier by the growing political unrest in the United States. Among the strategies the museum is employing: a sign warning viewers of the work’s potential to elicit a strong emotional reaction, and an expedited updated to museum security uniforms (from grey to a cheerier light blue).
3) 2019 Venice Biennale: May You Live in Interesting Times
Speaking of interesting times, the 2019 Venice Biennale has been christened with an ostentatious title: “May You Live in Interesting Times.” Set to open in May, this will be the 58th edition of the annual art festival. The title, a broad allusion to the “interesting” political moment that the world has found itself in, comes originally from a 1930’s speech by British MP Austin Chamberlain. Thanks to a misunderstanding by Chamberlain at the time the turn of phrase has been popularly -- and erroneously -- referred to as an “ancient Chinese curse.”
4) New York Unveils Pulse Nightclub Memorial
New York’s Hudson River Park is now home to a memorial artwork by Anthony Goicolea, honouring the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. The memorial consists of nine bronze “boulders,” eight of which contain a central strip of reflective glass that creates a rainbow of colours, emanating from the center of each boulder as light hits it at different angles. The memorial also features two quotes from the poet Audrey Lorde, reflecting on the nature of difference, and community.