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Activists aggravate art insurers’ climate headache

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Activists glue their hands to the wall after throwing soup at a van Gogh painting at the National Gallery, in London, on Oct. 14.JUST STOP OIL/Reuters

Climate activists’ attacks on some of the world’s most precious paintings have added to insurers’ worries about the threat to art from climate change itself, concerns seen as leading to higher art insurance premiums.

In recent weeks, activists have drawn attention to the climate cause by throwing tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in the National Gallery in London and a black liquid at Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” in the Leopold Museum in Vienna to protest against the use of fossil fuels.

The paintings were behind glass or a screen and a spokesperson for the National Gallery said only “minor damage” was done to the Sunflowers’ frame.

The Leopold Museum has said the Klimt was not damaged, but did not respond to a request for further comment.

Many in the art and insurance world, however, say it may be only be a matter of time before art works are vandalized, especially if protests spread beyond climate activism.

Almost 100 galleries, including New York’s Guggenheim and the Paris Louvre, earlier this month issued a statement saying the activists “severely underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects”.

“At the moment it’s just climate change activists, who are mainly middle class liberals and are not really intending to damage the work,” said Robert Read, head of art and private client at insurer Hiscox.

“What we worry about is if it spreads to other protest groups who are less genteel and will take a less caring attitude.”

Even if the art itself is not directly damaged, the cleanup costs of repairing a frame and remounting a picture can reach tens of thousands of dollars, said Filippo Guerrini Maraldi, head of fine art at broker Howden.

“The risk profile has changed now. The insurers might say ‘I want a little bit more money next year’ and ‘what are you doing about security?’” Maraldi said, adding that art owners were becoming more nervous too.

“We’ve already had several requests from clients that may have pieces in museums, requesting that they are stowed away.”

The art insurance market globally earns around $750-million in premiums. Premium rates rose by around 5 per cent in 2020 and 2021 and remained steady this year but insurers expect them to rise.

Losses and levels of insurance availability tend to dictate insurance premiums.

Regardless of the climate protests, the increased incidence of fire and flood linked to global warming that has inspired activism is likely to drive insurance premiums higher next year, insurers and brokers said.

Inflation is also piling pressure on premiums.

Jennifer Schipf, global chief underwriting officer for fine art & specie at AXA XL said she expects reinsurers – who insure the insurers – to raise rates during the Jan. 1 renewal period, which could impact the art market.

So far the attacks have not led to claims, insurers and brokers say. It was unclear what the Leopold Museum’s arrangements were, but the British government bears the risks for the National Gallery’s permanent collections, a gallery spokesperson said.

Major museums often rely on governments to provide financial security in the event of damage rather than seeking commercial insurance.

Commercial museums and galleries, however, buy art insurance, and its use is also more prevalent among larger museums in the United States than in Europe.

The premiums they pay have remained steady in part because more general concerns about terror attacks and violence had already tightened security in recent years, with more works behind glass, and increased numbers of security guards and bag searches.

In some cases, commercial insurers have also grown more wary, with one insurer who declined to be named saying it only insured artworks that were behind glass.

While five insurers contacted by Reuters said they were not yet factoring climate attacks into premiums, some artists say they already face increased costs.

Thomas Hampel, agent for the German artist ANTOINETTE, said the insurance premiums to cover her art were set to rise 12.5 per cent next year, compared with 3 per cent-5 per cent rises in the previous three years.

In addition, the extra expense to exhibit a large artwork safely would be €35,000 ($36,417) for a 100 square metre of anti-reflective glass, on top of transport and assembly.

“We cannot afford these additional costs,” Hampel said.

The attacks may also eat into government indemnity – the state insurance that covers major galleries when they are showing art they do not own, Adam Prideaux, managing director of art insurance broker Hallett Independent, said.

Arts Council England, which provides such indemnity, said in e-mailed comments it could not give any details of individual claims, but said “only a small number of mostly minor claims have been made in the last ten years”.

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Ehiko: The Multidisciplinary Artist Shaping Decolonization Through Art

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Ehiko, a multidisciplinary artist born in Lagos, Nigeria, now calls Toronto, Ontario, her home. An OCAD University graduate, she has gained recognition for her powerful and evocative works that delve into the complexities of decolonization, health and wellness, spirituality, sexual violence, and the representation of melanated hair.

Ehiko’s artistic journey began in the vibrant city of Lagos, where the rich cultural heritage and traditional artistry influenced her deeply. This foundation blossomed in Toronto, where she continued to experiment and manipulate raw canvas due to its flexibility. Her expressive palette and the use of various textiles pay homage to traditional Nigerian craftsmanship, creating a unique blend of contemporary and ancestral art forms.

Her works are not just visually striking but also laden with profound messages. Ehiko’s exploration of decolonization is evident in her large-scale multi-medium paintings, performances, drawings, and installations. Each piece she creates is a testament to her commitment to unravelling spirituality linked to traditional Afrakan masks, presenting a dialogue between the past and present.

One of the central themes in Ehiko’s work is health and wellness, particularly within the context of the Black community. She addresses the often-overlooked aspects of mental health and the importance of wellness practices rooted in African traditions. Through her art, Ehiko encourages a reconnection with these practices, promoting healing and resilience.

Sexual violence is another critical subject Ehiko tackles with sensitivity and boldness. Her works often depict the pain and trauma associated with such experiences while also highlighting the strength and resilience of survivors. By bringing these issues to the forefront, she fosters conversations that are essential for societal change and healing.

The representation of melanated hair in Ehiko’s art is a celebration of Black identity and beauty. Her pieces challenge societal norms and stereotypes, presenting Black hair in its diverse and natural forms. This representation is not only about aesthetics but also about reclaiming cultural identity and pride.

Ehiko’s exhibitions in Lagos and Toronto have garnered significant attention, and her private collection of purchased work is available upon request. Her contributions to the art world extend beyond her creations; she is also an advocate for using art as a tool for social change and empowerment.

In every piece, Ehiko weaves her experiences, heritage, and vision, creating a tapestry that speaks to the heart and mind. Her work is a powerful reminder of the role of art in decolonization and healing, and her journey continues to inspire and influence the global art community.

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park

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A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”

 

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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73

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Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”

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