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May 28 2021

Speak Up: Weekly News Roundup

by The Editors

Screenshot via the website of “A Letter Against Apartheid.”

There are different ways to fight racism and hatred. Some are circulating letters calling for connection and solidarity, while artists and curators who have foregrounded silenced perspectives and communities are being recognized for their efforts. Here is a look at these stories this week.

Palestinian Artists Mount Massive Campaign Against Apartheid

On May 26, more than 300 Palestinian artists, curators, and art professionals released a collective statement calling for the “immediate and unconditional cessation of Israeli violence against Palestinians” and asking for “all people of conscience to exercise their agency to help dismantle the apartheid regime of our time.” The initiators of the statement, titled “A Letter Against Apartheid,” have since been joined by a running list of hundreds of supporters from all over the globe. In addition to rallying support for the “Palestinian struggle for decolonization,” the campaign criticizes the United States government for its annual military support of USD 3.8 billion to Israel and European countries, and for its fostering of a self-censorship culture around solidarity with Palestinians. “Racism, including antisemitism, and all forms of hate, are heinous and not welcome in the Palestinian struggle,” the signatories write. “No one is free until we are all free.”

Portrait of LI BINYUAN. Courtesy Sovereign Art Foundation, Hong Kong.

Li Binyuan Wins Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2021

On May 27, Hong Kong’s non-profit Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) announced Chinese artist Li Binyuan as the 2021 winner of the Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Nominated by Li Zhenhua, founder of Laboratory Art Beijing, the artist received a trophy and USD 30,000. His winning piece, the black-and-white photograph Tilted Portrait (2020), features him standing on a tree branch. The composition alludes to his ongoing spiritual and physical search for stability within Chinese society, and for ways to transcend the “norms and ideologies imposed on the environment.” In addition, the Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize of USD 5,000 was awarded to Indian artist Rithika Merchant, for her mixed-media gouache, ink-and-water painting of her imagination of the cosmos, Saudade (2020). Bangladeshi artist Imtiaj Rasel received The Public Vote Prize of USD 1,000 for Journey by Bus (2019), a bus-ticket collage depicting travelers. The panel of judges this year included writer and curator David Elliot; journalist and author Georgina Adam; artist Zhang Enli; art critic John McDonald; and chairman of Friends of Hong Kong Museum of Art, Nancy Lee. All shortlisted artworks, except Li’s, were auctioned online, with proceeds divided among the artists and SAF’s charity partners. 

Portrait of ULI ESHRĀGHI. Photo by Rhett Hammerton. Courtesy TarraWarra Museum of Art.

Léuli Eshrāghi to Curate 2023 TarraWarra Biennial

Samoan multidisciplinary artist and curator Léuli Eshrāghi has been named the curator for the next TarraWarra Biennial, slated to open in April 2023, as announced by the TarraWarra Museum of Art on May 24. Eshrāghi’s artistic practice pays homage to ia’s Samoan, Persian, and Cantonese heritage through video, writing, performance, and installation. Ia’s recent curatorial projects include “Pasapkedjinawong” with John G. Hampton at Regina’s Mackenzie Art Gallery, a group show that traces how language has morphed and adapted against colonial violence, and “Layover,” which explores transnationalisms and notions of home, at Auckland’s Artspace Aotearoa. Commenting on Eshrāghi’s new role, Victoria Lynn, director of the Museum, said: “Léuli Eshrāghi has built a global profile in curatorial practice and museology in service of First Nations and racialised communities . . . [Ia’s] appointment to curate TarraWarra Museum of Art’s Biennial 2023 speaks to the Museum’s desire to present Australian art and contemporary issues in a global context.”

Portrait of TALOI HAVINI. Photo by Zan Wimberley. Courtesy Artspace Sydney.

Taloi Havini Joins Board of Directors at Artspace Sydney

On May 24, Artspace Sydney announced that Hakö artist Taloi Havini will join Artspace’s board of directors, following the recent departure of Lebanese-Australian artist Khaled Sabsabi, who was appointed in 2017. Havini will work alongside Indigenous artist Daniel Boyd and Australian sculptor Mikala Dwyer as the three artist representatives on the board. In early 2020, Artspace presented Havini’s first Australian solo show, “Reclamation,” featuring her ongoing series of video installations Habitat (2016– ), which reflect on the historical erasures and issues of land ownership surrounding mineral mines in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. More recently, Havini has exhibited her oeuvre of photography, sculpture, video, and multimedia installations at organizations including Ocean Space, Venice; and Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne.

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