Art World Roundup: architecture highlights, UK museums under pressure, Art Basel cancels Miami, and more

Art World Roundup: architecture highlights, UK museums under pressure, Art Basel cancels Miami, and more
Attributed to Vincent van Gogh, "The Wijk Mill," ca. 1883-85. Courtesy Dechow.

Architecture features heavy in this week’s Art World Roundup as the UK announces shortlisted proposals for the Home of 2030 competition, architectural firm Gómez Platero releases plans for memorial to the COVID era, and a group of buyers save a Frank Lloyd Wright gem in Arizona. Also, UK museums face pressure from government to be “commercially-minded,” the final edition of Art Basel will move online, and a painting, which some believe to be by van Gogh, sells for nearly half a million.


Mounting pressure for UK museums

A letter sent by Oliver Dowden, UK culture secretary, urges museums to “take as commercially-minded an approach as possible, pursuing every opportunity to maximise alternative sources of income.” Dowden warned that if such measures are not taken, he “will not be in a position to make the case for any further financial support for the sector.” Moreover, Dowden stated that he would be disappointed “if it becomes apparent that revenue enhancing opportunities were available to your institutions and you did not maximise them.” The letter was leaked to and first reported by The Art Newspaper following the UK government’s £1.75 billion stimulus in July for arts and heritage organisations. Dowden’s letter comes at a time when museums are already feeling the pressure after hemorrhaging funds during lockdown as they look forward to decreased numbers. The letter was described to TAN  as “a kick in the teeth” by one museum director.


(van) Gogh-ing once…

A painting, disputedly attributed to Vincent van Gogh, sold at auction this week for €550,000 (~£490,000) to an unnamed buyer. Jens-Peter Franz, project manager for Dechow, the German auction house that oversaw the sell, stated that while they could not prove that the painting, called The Wijk Mill, was by van Gogh, “there is a lot of evidence” supporting the connection. The auction house has the support of some that the work was done by the Dutch master, much in part due to similarities in van Gogh’s writing and the writing found on the painting. Others, though, are uncertain. First and foremost is the Van Gogh Museum which said it “has examined this painting and does not think that the work was made by Vincent van Gogh.” Among issues found with the painting is that it is signed “van Gogh” rather than the artist’s typical moniker of simply “Vincent.” Perhaps, though, time will tell if the work is actually by van Gogh, as is the case with a painting that was long-thought to be a fake but has recently been linked to Rembrandt.


New life for Wright’s Phoenix house

A Frank Lloyd Wright home that could have headed towards destruction has been bought by a group who intend to restore and preserve the home. The 1952 house, which Wright built for his son and daughter-in-law, David and Gladys Wright, was sold for more than $7 million to a group of buyers that included architects Bing Hu and Wenchin Shi, both of which studied at Wright’s Taliesin West architecture school. Situated on 10 acres in Phoenix, Arizona is a prime example of Wright’s mic-century contemporary style set against Camelback Mountain. It was among the last houses Wright designed before he died in 1959. After David and Gladys Wright died in 1997 and 2008, respectively, their family sold the house. Then, in 2012, a developed who bought the house planned to demolish but public outcry kept the house intact. A later buyer planned to preserve the house and add to its garden but that proposal was extinguished by neighbouring homeowners. Hopefully the new owners’ plans for the house will find common ground. “We had several offers over the past few years, but the buyers always wanted to only tear down the house and build all new ones, said Bob Hassett, a Sotheby’s agent with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. “The sellers wanted nothing to do with those proposals, as their intention from day one when they purchased it back in 2012 was to make sure the home and its integrity would be preserved as such a historic Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece should and will be. These are the perfect buyers for this property, and we are all extremely happy that we were able to put this all together.”


Online is the only way for Art Basel in 2020

The last of the Art Basel fairs has been cancelled for 2020 due to restrictions and concerns of COVID-19. Slated for the first two weeks of December, the plug on an in-person Art Basel Miami was pulled earlier this week as Florida continues to be among the US states with the most severe outbreaks of the virus. In a statement, Noah Horowitz, Art Basel’s Americas director, said: “It is with great regret and disappointment that we announce the cancellation of our December show in Miami Beach, as we know how crucial our show is for our galleries, as well as for the greater Miami arts community and economy. […] We thank everyone who shared their perspectives and insights with us over the past months and weeks and look forward to returning to Miami Beach next year to deliver a successful show.” In addition to sheer numbers of COVID in Florida, travel restrictions also played a role in calling off the fair, which typically marks the end of the year for international art fairs. As was the case with Art Basel’s Hong Kong and Basel editions, Art Basel Miami, in the flesh, will be subbed out for an online edition of the fair. Online Viewing Rooms for the December fair will be available to galleries who were expected to partake in the Miami events.


Memorialising the pandemic

Architectural firm Gómez Platero is in the process of memorialising the pandemic through an impressive structure intended for the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo. Dubbed the World Memorial to the Pandemic , the sleek architectural work is meant to evoke the community and unity through its circular design, yet remind us that man is not at the centre of the world. A singular notch interrupts the memorial symbolising the pandemic, which has interrupted life as we know it. World Memorial to the Pandemic, though, hopes to highlight our relationship to nature, as well.  “Understanding and interpreting our relationship with dynamic nature, subordinated to its changes, will serve as a permanent reminder of our place in the world,” explains the firm. “Man is not the center; the eye of this space is occupied by a void where nature in its pure state emerges, reminding us of its omnipresence and of our fragile condition.” The memorial, when realised, will be a place of reflection as the world moves on after the time of COVID-19.

World Memorial to the Pandemic – Gómez Platero from Gómez Platero on Vimeo.


Could the private garden be on its way out in the UK?

Six finalists have been announced in the Home of 2030 competition set forth by UK housing minister Christopher Pincher. The competition is meant to better the UK’s housing industry, create more environmentally friendly homes, and encourage better living as society ages. Shortlisted candidates are: changebuilding, Perpendicular Architecture & humblebee, with ECOSystems Tech, COCIS and Arup; HLM Architects with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Green Build; Igloo Regeneration with Useful Projects, Expedition Engineers and Mawson Kerr Architects; Openstudio Architects Ltd; Outpost Architects and team; and Studio OPEN. A common thread that runs amongst the proposals are communal green spaces instead of private garden areas. The trend shows that in the coming decades, the garden might become a thing of the past. “We’re on a crusade to abolish greed-driven identikit development on soulless estates,” said director of shortlisted firm Igloo, Chris Brown in The Guardian. “After Covid-19, people will want their towns and cities back, to make beautiful places where home schooling and working from home is designed in – not an afterthought – and where the climate, nature and community are prioritised over profit.” The Home of 2030 competition is part of a larger government initiative to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and later this year, the competition’s winner will be announced.