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Return Looted Art to Former Colonies, Dutch Committee Tells Government – The New York Times

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The Netherlands should return looted art to its former colonies: That’s the official recommendation of an advisory committee to the Dutch government.

After a year of research, including interviews with people in former Dutch colonies such as Indonesia, Suriname and several Caribbean islands, the committee released its report in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

The lawyer and human rights activist Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You, who led the committee, said in an interview that the government should acknowledge the injustices of colonialism and be willing to return objects without conditions if it can be proven that they were acquired involuntarily, and if their countries of origin ask for them.

The report calls for the creation of a body of experts to investigate objects’ provenance when requests are made, and a publicly accessible national database of all the colonial collections in Dutch museums.

Credit…Gero Breloer/Deutsche Presse Agentur, via Associated Press

The decision on whether to return an object, however, would ultimately rest with the Dutch government.

Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Dutch minister of education, culture and science, who commissioned the report, said in an emailed statement that it offered “clear starting points for a new way to handle colonial collections.” She said she would present draft legislation based on the advice in early 2021.

The Netherlands owns hundreds of thousands of objects that were acquired during the country’s colonial history. But the exact number is unknown.

Creating a database and researching the background of all these objects would be a huge undertaking, said Jos van Beurden, an independent researcher who has specialized in restitution since the 1990s.

“The principle is fantastic,” he said. “But I’m worried about the execution.”

A similar report commissioned by the French government shows that the path from ideas to action can be a long and winding one. After a high-profile 2017 speech in which President Emmanuel Macron promised to return much of Africa’s heritage, the report he commissioned from two academics said that items brought to French museums without the permission of their countries of origin should be returned, if they were requested.

Since 2018, when the report was released, only 27 restitutions have been announced, and only one object, a traditional sword from Senegal, has been returned.

Credit…Michel Euler/Associated Press

On Tuesday, France’s National Assembly passed a bill that would allow the official restitution of those 27 items, including 26 which would be returned to Benin, within the next year. The bill now has to be considered by the French Senate.

Bénédicte Savoy, one of the authors the French report, said in an interview that the bill, which was passed unanimously, proved that France now positively welcomed the restitution debate. Tuesday’s vote would set a useful precedent for future restitutions, she added.

“Perhaps the steps are small, but it seems to me that they are symbolically big,” she said.

Ms. Savoy said that the Dutch report was the “logical continuation” of the Netherlands’ longtime constructive dialogue with its former colonies regarding potential restitutions. “It seems to me that the debate is less tense in the Netherlands than in France,” she said, adding that she expected the Dutch government to adopt the report’s recommendations.

But attempts by Dutch museums to reckon with the country’s colonial past have not always gone down well with the public. Last year, the Hermitage Museum, in Amsterdam, said it would jettison the term “Golden Age” for the era in the 17th century when the Netherlands was a world leader in art, science and trade, because the phrase obscured a history of slavery and exploitation. That decision was met with widespread condemnation and derided by Prime Minister Mark Rutte as “nonsense.”

Stijn Schoonderwoerd, the director of the National Museum of World Cultures, a consortium of museums in the Netherlands, said that if the Dutch report were implemented, it would be important to engage the former colonies in discussions about the objects they might want back before any action was taken.

“It would almost be neocolonial to presume to know what’s good for Indonesia or Suriname, or any other country,” Mr. Schoonderwoerd said.

The report also addresses objects in Dutch museums that came from countries colonized by other European powers: The committee said a decision about returning those should be made on “the basis of reasonableness and fairness, and on the basis of a balance of interests.” Ms. Gonçalves, the committee chair, said that international relations could be a factor in these decisions, whereas the report recommended unconditional return to former colonies of the Netherlands.

But wherever the objects were from, Ms. Gonçalves said, the Dutch government should act to right the wrongs of colonialism. “The main principle remains the same: What was stolen should be returned.”

Alex Marshall and Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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In the Return of Art Fairs, Smaller Is Better – The New York Times

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Wearing a yellow face mask designed in Ethiopia, the gallerist Rakeb Sile greeted a trickle of visitors to her booth one recent morning at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London. Addis Fine Art — the gallery of which she is a founder in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa — had on display a colorful cityscape, a portrait painted on fragments of used canvas and a gem-studded black cape worn in a recent performance-art piece outside Buckingham Palace.

“With the right precautions, we just have to keep things moving,” said Ms. Sile, who is of Ethiopian descent, referring to the pandemic. She said the gallery owed it to its staff and artists, and to the 1-54 fair, which was founded in London in 2013 and is now also held in New York and Marrakesh, Morocco.

“The narrative on Africa is always so flat, and very, very shallow,” she said. “Somewhere like this, you can come in and really discover things that you just never thought you would discover.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

The pandemic has led most of the world’s fairs to cancel en masse and instead have online editions. These include Art Basel, in Hong Kong, Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach; FIAC, which was to have taken place in Paris this week; and the Frieze Art Fair in London, which usually coincides with 1-54.

Yet 1-54 and at least two other stalwarts, Art Paris and Viennacontemporary, decided to go ahead this fall.

The context could hardly have been tougher. The virus has caused severe restrictions on travel and crowds, two defining features of any international fair. According to a midyear art-market survey on the virus’s impact that was published by Art Basel and UBS Global, fair cancellations in the first half of 2020 have led to galleries’ generating only 16 percent of their sales at art fairs, down from 46 percent during the same period last year. Nine of 10 galleries predicted no second-half recovery in this sector of the business, and only a third forecast a sales increase at fairs next year.

Once Frieze went virtual, 1-54, which ran from Oct. 8 to 10, could have canceled. It was helped by its smallness and its location at Somerset House, a stately 18th-century building in central London with a warren of interconnected rooms that allowed one-way traffic flow and strict crowd control.

Though the fair, at capacity, drew only 3,000 visitors this year (down from 18,000 in 2019) and featured 30 galleries (down from 45), several booths sold out, including Ed Cross Fine Art, which featured ruglike textile works by the Welsh-Ghanaian artist Anya Paintsil. The fair itself broke even.

“In a world where people are more and more worried about large gatherings, about safety and about the prospect of getting sick, we have to think about more intimate formats, and ours happens to be one such format,” Touria El-Glaoui, the fair’s founding director, said after its end. “We’re already small, and already flexible, unlike a fair in a convention center that hosts more than 100 galleries.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

Ms. El-Glaoui said she hoped to go ahead with the New York edition of 1-54 next May — and to hold it in the photographer Annie Leibovitz’s former studio, the Caldwell Factory, as had been planned for this year before its cancellation.

Discounting also helped make the fairs happen. Viennacontemporary, which offered half-price booths, ended up hosting 65 galleries in total, down from 110 last year. Art Paris gave a 15 percent discount to established galleries and 14 newer ones, and gave the latter the proceeds of its ticket sales, a total of 110,000 euros (about $129,000). A total of 112 galleries participated in the Paris fair this year, down from 150 in 2019.

Art Paris was the first fair to take the post-lockdown plunge and proceed as normal, occupying the domed turn-of-the-century Grand Palais from Sept. 10 to 13. This year’s edition drew about 57,000 visitors, down 10 percent from last year. It also had first-time exhibitors that included the high-profile gallery Perrotin and multiple six-digit sales, among them those of a drawing by Giacometti and two sculptures by César.

Art Paris was long perceived as a largely local art-world outlier. But “what was previously singled out as a weakness in my case — that the fair wasn’t international enough — turned out to be an advantage,” said Guillaume Piens, its director since 2012.

Credit…Mohammed Badra/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Purchases were mainly by French collectors, challenging the commonly held belief that France has few collectors and that we’d be nothing without American buyers,” he added. “Things have changed a lot.”

Mr. Piens said he was right to have resisted turning Art Paris into a clone of other large, global fairs, where visitors see “practically the same things,” regardless of where they go, and “it’s like driving down the same highways, with the same names and the same galleries all over.”

Johanna Chromik, artistic director of Viennacontemporary, also noted that local — meaning Austrian — collectors made that fair a success this year, accounting for half of sales, up from the usual one-third. The Vienna event, which ran from Sept. 24 to 27, also caters to Austria’s neighbors, especially the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary.

Credit…Kristina Kulakova

Putting on the fair was difficult, Ms. Chromik said — “you can imagine how many sleepless nights I had” — but she added that collectors were “highly motivated” and “really buying; we had solid to really good sales this year.” Many visitors had not been to a fair since the Armory Show in New York in March, so they were pleased “to see art for real, in three dimensions,” she said.

Collectors’ enthusiasm was confirmed by the UBS/Art Basel report. Despite the virus, 82 percent said they planned to attend exhibitions, art fairs and other events in the ensuing 12 months. More than half hoped to attend events both at home and abroad. And 59 percent of the high-net-worth respondents said that the virus had increased their thirst for collecting.

Credit…kunst-dokumentation.com

So fairs seem here to stay, the events’ directors said; there will just be fewer of them.

“I don’t believe in returning to how we lived before 2019,” Ms. Chromik said. “We learned from this year.”

She said some of the practices introduced at Viennacontemporary this year — like shared booths, of which there were about half a dozen — could well continue.

What the Covid-19 pandemic has made clear, said Mr. Piens of Art Paris, is that the last several years featured “too much foie gras and too much Champagne, resulting in a giant indigestion.”

Mr. Piens added, “We’re all on a diet now.”

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Epilepsy education centre in Abbotsford holds online art classes – Abbotsford News

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The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education in Abbotsford is hosting monthly virtual art classes for people across B.C. living with epilepsy.

The next class is scheduled for Oct. 22 on Facebook Live.

The aim is to improve communication and concentration, reduce feelings of isolation, and increase self-esteem and confidence.

The charity has received a $4,500 donation from the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation to support the organization as it continues to provide services to B.C.-based children, youth, individuals and families.

RELATED: B.C. epilepsy patient ends sit-in, awaits answers

The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education was incorporated in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization.

Since then, it has pioneered landmark education programs that have been adapted provincially, nationally and internationally.

They provide direct support to families and individuals struggling with seizures; create children’s education and materials and comfort items; send children to summer camp; and promote research.

The centre is located at 32868 Ventura Ave. Visit esebc.org for more information or to register for the next art class.

RELATED: Purple Day 2020: Epilepsy awareness heads online

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Windsor is known for many things, but street art isn't one — Derkz is on a mission to change that – CBC.ca

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The city of Windsor, Ont, is in many ways defined by its manufacturing heritage, its leadership in the automotive industry and its proximity to its U.S. neighbour Detroit. One thing it is not known for is its street art — but a number of local graffiti artists are hoping to change that.

Windsor-based artist David “Derkz” Derkatz is a graffiti writer and muralist. His work is all over the city, immortalizing everything from civil rights heroes, pop icons and animals to his most recent piece, which is one of Canada’s largest murals celebrating frontline workers.

In this doc by filmmaker Sasha Jordan Appler, Derkz is tasked with painting a wall on an abandoned building to revitalize a forgotten part of the city.

“The west end’s known for being a little bit more gritty, like a little bit of the rougher part, so they wanted something bold and tough,” says Derkz. “I came up with the two-hawk designs.”

Graffiti can completely change a community. Once criticized as vandalism, it is now in contemporary terms an alternative to traditional gallery space, showcasing work outside and defining — or sometimes redefining — a neighbourhood’s character. These colourful large-scale works, like Derkz’s hawk design, create a reason for people to flock to the area and make it feel more welcoming.

Mural artist Derkz in his studio. (CBC Arts)

Watch as Windsor gets transformed by Derkz and fellow graffiti artists Eugenio “Drevmz” Mendoza, Daniel “Denial” Bombardier and Briana “Athena” Benore in the premiere of “Graffiti: The Art that Changes a City” on CBC’s Absolutely Canadian series on CBC TV in Windsor and online on CBC Gem, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

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