By Deb A.
The tides are turning against a major donor in the art world. Over the last week, the Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Guggenheim all announced that they would no longer be accepting donations from the Sackler family.
The Sacklers earned themselves a name in the art world by donating millions upon millions of dollars to museums and galleries. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre have Sackler Wings, the British Museum has Raymond and Beverly Sackler Rooms, and the group of Tate galleries had already accepted over $5 million from the family before their recent announcement.
The problem lies in the source of the Sackler family's billions: Their company, Purdue Pharma, developed and aggressively marketed OxyContin while hiding its addictive properties, making the Sacklers almost single-handedly responsible for North America's opioid crisis.
Photographer Nan Goldin, who herself became addicted to painkillers after being prescribed OxyContin, established Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN) to protest the Sacklers's involvement in the arts and insist that they fund rehab programmes and overdose antidotes instead of making prestigious donations. She led demonstrations at the Met and the Guggenheim, and threatened to withdraw from an exhibition of her work at the National Portrait Gallery if it accepted a million-pound donation from the Sacklers. The gallery turned the money down.
The Sacklers are far from being the only ethically problematic patrons of the arts, and it is unlikely that museums and galleries around the world, especially those with long histories, will be able to extricate themselves completely from blood money and ill-gotten gains. But this is no reason to avoid taking a stand; galleries must make it clear that they will no longer accept money that was earned by putting lives at risk.
By Deb A.
"Every black person deserves to see themselves this way": Mikael Owunna's Infinite Essence photography project is his reaction to the barrage of images of dying or dead black bodies. It is both poignant and incredibly beautiful, and a thorough look at his website and social media, along with this interview with NPR, is well worth your while.
Patrick Heide Contemporary Art in London is showing a group exhibition focused on Brexit entitled Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
It didn't take long for the first comic depicting U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (as an establishment-fighting hero) to emerge. (Devil's Due Comics)
The New York Times marked Black History Month by telling the stories of some of the notable black men and women who did not receive obituaries when they died. The project is called Overlooked, and its last entry of the year is a look at graffiti artist Dondi.
If it's too cold to get outside, at least there's this: The Outdoor Photographer of the Year winners for 2018.
It's somehow hard to imagine a list like this that didn't include Margaret Atwood (spoiler alert: This one does): CBC's "10 Canadian books coming out in March we can't wait to read."
By Deb A.
Is it time to get away? For the days when picking up a book isn't quite enough to truly transport you to another world, here are some places that might help.
Book and Bed, Tokyo & Kyoto, Japan
Book lovers on a budget might enjoy Japan's Book and Bed hostels, which are centred on the concept of "Accommodation Bookstore." Shelves upon shelves of books surround the curtained-off rooms so that when you're done reading, you can just drift off to sleep.
Boutique Hotel + Spa, Zurich, Switzerland
Food and drink are generally frowned upon in libraries, but the Wine Library, which was once a brewery, offers small plates and wine around the clock in case you need sustenance while reading one of the library's 33,000 titles.
Gladstone's Library, Flintshire, Wales
Technically, this is not a hotel; rather, it is a residential library with nearly 150,000 printed items... and 26 boutique bedrooms. Guests have extended use of the Reading Rooms and may bring library books back to their rooms. There are also books in all public rooms
Heathman Hotel, Portland, U.S.A.
The two-storey Heathman Hotel Library houses over 3,000 books signed by their authors, who include Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. Poet Laureates, and former U.S. Presidents. It is a rare beast: a catalogued lending hotel library.
Juffing Hotel & Spa, Tyrol, Austria
It is clear as soon as you enter the Juffing Hotel & Spa that this will be a thinking person's retreat: Quotes from famous authors line the hallways, there are two libraries (one in the lobby and one in the spa) and each guest room is dedicated to a particular author or topic. You can also borrow iPods with audio books. If you don't manage to finish your paperback before you leave, you can arrange to take it with you and send it back when you're done.
The Library, Koh Samui, Thailand
The Library's library, The Lib, is a minimalist white room with a curated collection of over 1,400 books. It overlooks the sea, but guests will probably prefer to read by the hotel's Red Pool or nearby Chaweng Beach.
Library Hotel, New York City, U.S.A.
New York City's Library Hotel organises its more than 6,000 books by the Dewey Decimal System, just like your local library. One of the Dewey Decimal System's 10 categories provides the theme for each floor of the hotel, and every guest room features 50-150 books on a particular topic.
âSchloss Elmau, Elmau, Germany
The site of the 2015 G7 summit offers the Silentium Library for "reading, thinking & dreaming," but if you need to roll up your sleeves, head to the Wetterstein Library ("for working") instead. If you're not adverse to a chat and a drink while you try to finish the last pages of your paperback, try the Library Lounge at the Retreat. There's also a bookstore that holds book presentations and talks with authors.
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, India
The Palace Library is billed as one the grandest of the hotel's already quite grand rooms. Amongst its 5,900 books is a rare book collection for you to peruse under the ornate teak ceilings.
By Deb A.
Hallowe'en is looming, so we turn this week to something a little more gory. This month not one but two blood-based art projects have hit the headlines, both with a political message.
Marc Quinn will draw blood from 5000 people for his next piece in order to highlight the global refugee crisis and, crucially, raise money for refugees worldwide. Billed as "a monument to our common humanity" that emphasises "how there is more that unites us than divides us," Odyssey will feature two cubes, each containing one metric ton of frozen blood--one cube will hold blood drawn from refugees, while the other will hold blood drawn from non-refugees around the world, including celebrities such as Anna Wintour and Jude Law. The cubes will be unlabelled, pushing viewers to recognise the basic humanity that is shared by us all. If you would like to stand in solidarity with refugees, or even if you just fancy the idea of your blood mingling with Paul McCartney's DNA, you can buy the chance to donate your blood to the artwork. Odyssey will debut outside the New York Public Library in Autumn 2019, then go on a global tour.
Earlier this month Khaled Jarrar stood on Wall Street selling vials of his own blood from a cooler with the aim of drawing attention to the role of America's military industry in war and violence. In his performance piece Blood for Sale, Jarrar sold his first eight bottles of blood for $19.48 to mark the price of Smith and Wesson stock and the 1948 Palestine War. The rest were valued according to the stock prices of 15 major American defence contractors: from $75 (Science Applications International Corporation) to $347 (Lockheed Martin). Interested passers-by who preferred to simply make a donation or buy the accompanying certificate without incurring the inconvenience of having to carry blood around for the rest of their day were rebuffed: As taxpayers to the American government, they already had blood on their hands, Jarrar reasoned. Proceeds of the sales of the 50 10-ml samples will be donated to hospitals in Yemen and Gaza.
By Deb A.
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. As we teeter on the edge of disaster, actions should be speaking louder than words. But the sad truth is that the overwhelming evidence for climate change has not moved us beyond discussion and, shockingly, debate; even the most dire numbers apparently are not enough to make us feel the urgency. Fortunately, some talented artists are using their craft to inspire us to take action.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet from the Marshall Islands who is sounding the alarm about the devastating effects that global warming is already having on her native land. She has addressed the UN and is the cofounder of Jo-Jikum, an environmental NGO.
"Climate change at work": For his Climate Signals installation (September 1–November 6), artist Justin Brice Guariglia—who has flown on earth science missions with NASA—has erected 10 solar-powered highway signs around New York City. Their flashing messages are geared toward provoking conversation and encouraging action on climate change.
Artist Mary Mattingly has a long history of creating sculptural ecosystems that highlight environmental issues. In 2009 she created the barge-mounted Waterpod to highlight rising sea levels. Artists lived, worked, and held events on the self-contained eco-habitat. Her most recent piece, Swale, is a floating food forest.
Olafur Eliasson, conceptual artist and creator of Little Sun, worked with geologist Minik Rosing to create Ice Watch in 2015. The project harvested 80 tonnes of ice from Greenland and deposited them to melt in Paris during the United Nations Climate Conference there.
Eve Mosher worked with experts and the local communities of five cities in the United Kingdom and the United States for HighWaterLine, a public art initiative that drew a blue chalk line around sites that are likely to flood due to climate change.
Dear Climate is an art project led by artists Marina Zurkow and Oliver Kellhammer and writer Una Chaudhuri. Along with exhibitions and events, Dear Climate offers audio meditations to "retool your inner climate" and posters to print out and mount wherever you see fit.
Collections and resources
In 2015, Carol Anne Duffy curated 20 original poems on climate change for The Guardian. Actors including Jeremy Irons, Ruth Wilson, and Michael Sheen read the poems aloud for maximum impact.
For its T Agitprop series, The New York Times collected works from a dozen contemporary artists on the theme of climate change.
The Poetry Foundation has pulled together a collection of environmental poetry from the past seven decades, "from early practitioners ... to ecopoets."
Artists and Climate Change (and its own list of resources) is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of art and ecology.
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