From Van Gogh Fever Sweeping the Nation to a Study About the Plight of Gallery Assistants: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week

Hallelujah, Corita Kent’s Studio Is Saved – The city of Los Angeles voted to save the artist nun’s studio from demolition, and will instead designate it as a landmark.

Invisible Art – An Italian artist has sold a sculpture that exists only in his imagination… for $18,000.

Reviving New York Culture – The Mellon Foundation is dispersing $125 million to help New York creatives get back to work.

On Your Marks, Get Set, Gogh – Van Gogh fever is sweeping the nation. Is an immersive Van Gogh coming to your state? We’ve got a guide to everywhere the post-Impressionist light shows are touching down.

Union Win at the Whitney – The Whitney Museum of American Art is the latest institution where workers have won the right to unionize. The museum said yes voluntarily.

Art Basel Is Back, Baby – The fair confirmed it will hold its marquee edition in Basel, Switzerland this September.

Eau de Van Gogh – The Van Gogh Museum is creating a perfume inspired by the artist’s famous paintings.

It’s Bad For Museums—But Not As Bad as We Thought – A new study revealed that only 15 percent of museums may close, instead of the previously projected 30 percent.

Report Revals Staggering Low Wages – In a report issued by Midnight Publishing Group News, gallery assistants reported earnings far less than what most would deem a “livable wage.”

Kaves Sues NYPD – The street artist says that the police department whitewashed his mural even though he had permission.

Black Wall Street Gallery Defaced Multiple Times – Vandals attacked the Soho gallery with white paint on the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre.

China Shuts Down Show – An exhibition commemorating the horrific events of the Tiananmen Square protests was shut down in Hong Kong.

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Palestinian Artist Khaled Jarrar Has Made an NFT to Call International Attention to the Plight of His Homeland

After 11 days of violence, Hamas and Israel announced a ceasefire early Friday morning. It was the worst bout of fighting in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in seven years and one that shook every corner of the world.

Several months prior, Ramallah-based artist Khaled Jarrar began work on a series that he hoped would raise awareness of the 73-year issue of Palestinian occupation among the international community. To do that, he chose a medium very much in the news: NFTs.

Jarrar’s NFT, titled If I don’t steal your home someone else will steal it, launched on May 13, just as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began carrying out airstrikes in Gaza City, leaving around 119 dead.

The NFT is part of “State of Palestine,” a new blockchain project that sheds light on the confiscation of the lands of Palestine. Through the creation of an NFT, which has been minted and offered for sale via the Our Zora platform, Jarrar hopes to bring the issue of occupation to the crypto community and beyond.

“I used an NFT because it is the latest trend and I believe it will help bring awareness to the issues we Palestinians are facing now through art,” Jarrar said.

Artist Khaled Jarrar rests against an installation which forms part of his exhibition 'Whole in the Wall' at the Ayyam Gallery, New Bond Street, London. (Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)

Artist Khaled Jarrar rests against an installation which forms part of his exhibition ‘Whole in the Wall’ at the Ayyam Gallery, New Bond Street, London. (Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)

The idea for the project began several years ago. When Jarrar would go for daily walks in mountains near to his home in Ramallah, he would collect handfuls of soil. “This soil is our Palestinian land,” he said. “These lands are in danger of annexation, so I am taking earth from the land and putting them in jars to preserve a bit of the land—a bit of its memory before it is gone.”

This year, during the month of May, the artist walked from the village of Kaubar to gather the handful of dirt for the artwork. “I NFT the soil to mark the hypocrisy of Israeli occupation, the unending spectrum of social, economic, and ecological apartheid,” Jarrar said in a statement. “The project is borne from daily walks around mountains of the occupied Palestine, where Israeli settlers continue to grab land and prevent farmers and hikers from accessing what is rightfully, for centuries, been ours.”

Jarrar’s digital artwork reveals an animated image showing a valley in the West Bank that has been overtaken by Israeli settlement homes that digitally appear across the screen. The valley pictured is located between the villages of Kobar and Jibiya, which is controlled by Israeli settlers who moved from the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish, also known as Neveh Tzuf, to live under the protection of the Israeli army.

The unique NFT, which is accompanied by a jar of Jarrar’s collected fertile soil from Palestine sent to the purchaser’s address, is created in conjunction with Strc prst skrz krk (SPSK), a blockchain-focused collective that aims to connect the disparate worlds of art to the crypto community in order to support difficult and challenging works of contemporary art.

Jarrar, now a full-time artist, was previously a presidential body guard under Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004. In 2002, Jarrar was shot in the leg by Israeli snipers during the invasion of Arafat’s compound. After he was injured, he turned to art as a way to bring more awareness regarding issues of freedom, identity, equality, and resistance in Palestine.

In 2014, his work was included in the New Museum show “Here and Elsewhere”—though Israeli authorities prevented him from traveling to the United States at the time. In 2018, he came to New York to sell vials of his own blood outside the New York Stock Exchange.

Khaled Jarrar's stamp of the State of Palestine.

Khaled Jarrar’s stamp of the State of Palestine.

At the third edition of the Crypto and Digital Art Fair (CADAF) in Paris, which runs from June 17 through 23, SPSK will present State of Palestine Postage Stamp, a unique NFT edition of another Jarrar work, his “Palestinian Postal Stamp” series.

For the series, Jarrar utilized the postal service of various national governments to create the first stamp of the State of Palestine in 2010, two years before the U.N. recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state. While France rejected the stamp at the time, it has now reversed its decision and agreed to print a limited-edition run.

“The violence and censorship that has been forced upon us will not permit us from creating our art,” Jarrar said. “Art is the language that we are talking now.”

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Coachella Officials Have Rejected a Proposal for an Ambitious Desert X Artwork, Claiming It Would ‘Exploit’ Local Plight for Tourism

Desert X, Southern California’s Coachella Valley art biennial, has always confronted environmental themes head on, using the harsh desert landscape to speak to global concerns about climate change.

But during preparations for the event’s third edition, Coachella natives took umbrage with a planned installation about water insecurity by Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey.

The city has now refused to grant permission for the project, citing ongoing problems related to arsenic-tainted groundwater in the eastern Coachella Valley. Instead, reports the Desert Sun, the work will be installed at a new, to-be-announced location.

“Ensuring that people don’t feel that their issue is being appropriated and exploited for tourism is something that is very sensitive to our communities,” council member Neftalí Galarza said during a December meeting. Desert X had been seeking a $30,000 grant for the artwork.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Coachella City Council made a decision not to host the work and troubled by the fact that the conversations it is intended to provoke proved too problematic for a district which struggles with precisely those issues,” Desert X 2021 co-curator César Garcia-Alvarez told Midnight Publishing Group News in an email. “We are excited for audiences to experience this work in a remarkable location.”

Clottey has coined the term “Afrogallonism” to describe his work, in which he recycles plastic yellow gallon containers that are ubiquitous in his native country. Originally filled with cooking oil, the containers are reused to transport water throughout Ghana, with villagers carrying the vessels long distances to reach potable wells.

“My work aims to shed light on and create a dialogue about the challenges communities around the globe experience in their fight for equitable water resource,” Clottey told Midnight Publishing Group News in an email. “It’s my dream to inspire local communities with the understanding that their unique environmental conditions are shared by many people around the world.”

For Desert X, he planned to display two nine-foot-tall cubes of stacked containers overlooking the Coachella Valley, with a paved pathway of cut-up containers between them, evoking the Yellow Brick Road.

The biennial described the artwork as “an act of global solidarity” that warns “us of a coming global water crisis.”

City council members suggested the artwork would be better placed in more wealthy areas of the Coachella Valley that might not be aware of the water issues facing much of the community.

This isn’t the first time Desert X has been embroiled in controversy. Its organizers were roundly criticized for collaborating with Saudi Arabia on a 2020 exhibition following the Saudi state-sponsored murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Desert X will be on view in sites throughout the Coachella Valley, February 6–April 11, 2021. 

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