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NYU Madrid Site Director on Curating Joan Miró: Materiality and Metamorphosis

NYU Madrid Site Director, Rob Lubar, associate professor of fine arts at the Institute for Fine Arts and Director of the Joan Miró Chair at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, has curated an exhibit on Miró in Oporto, Portugal. The exhibit, Joan Miró: Materiality and Metamorphosis, is on display at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. We asked Professor Lubar for his thoughts on mounting the exhibition, and more broadly on Miró’s work.

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When I was asked to curate the Portuguese State’s collection of 85 splendid works by the Catalan artist Joan Miró, I was delighted.  I’ve dedicated a good part of my professional career to studying the art of Joan Miró.  In 1988 I delivered my doctoral thesis at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts on Miró’s early work.  Since then, I’ve written extensively about Miró and am currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.  I am also the Director of the Càtedra Miró at the Open University of Catalonia and the Research Director of the International Miró Research Group.  The opportunity to curate the Oporto exhibition at the Serralves Museum, and to write a catalogue, has been one of the great pleasures of my academic career.

The collection, which contains a number of major works of historical importance and is uniformly of high quality, was acquired by the Portuguese State in an unusual way.  The 85 works were purchased by a Portuguese bank as an investment opportunity.  When the bank failed, it was rescued by the Portuguese State, to which the collection passed.  Two and a half years ago, under a different government, the Portuguese State attempted to auction the collection at Christie’s London.  There was a huge public outcry in Portugal and the collection was withdrawn from sale.  At that time, I had been invited to deliver a plenary lecture before the sale.  I was deeply disturbed that a collection of such great cultural value was being sold, as the decision struck me as politically driven.  Fortunately, with the controversy that followed, the collection remained in Portugal but a final disposition for it was not made until recently.  The current government decided to show the collection publicly in Portugal for the first time, and I was brought on board as curator.  Not only is the exhibition at the Serralves Museum a huge success, but it was announced at the inauguration, in the presence of the Prime Minister of Portugal, the President of Portugal, the President of Spain, the President of Catalonia, the Mayor of Oporto and various Ministers of Culture that the collection would remain in Portugal and would find a permanent home in the Serralves Museum.

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To have had the privilege to work with this great collection and to have had a hand in establishing a new museum in the magnificent city of Oporto has been enormously satisfying.  With the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona and the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Palma de Mallorca, the Serralves Miró collection forms a cultural triangle in the territories of the Iberian Peninsula.  There will be numerous opportunities in the future for collaboration among these and other institutions, and I look forward to a close working relationship with the curators and administrators of the Serralves Museum.

 

About the Exhibition

Joan Miró: Materiality and Metamorphosis, which is on display through January 28, 2017, is comprised of 85 works by Miró owned by the Portuguese state, many of which have never been seen before by the general public, including six of his paintings on masonite produced in 1936 and six “sobreteixims” (tapestries) of 1973.

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Robert Lubar discussing Miro with the President of Portugal, the Prime Minister of Portugal, and the Prime Minister of Spain at the exhibit opening in September.

The exhibition covers six-decades period – from 1924 to 1981, though it focused on the transformation of pictorial languages that the Catalan artist first developed in the mid-1920s. The exhibition considers his artistic metamorphoses across the mediums of drawing, painting, collage and work in tapestry.

Miró’s visual thinking and the ways in which he negotiates between optical and tactile modes of sensation is examined in detail, as are the artist’s working processes.

http://www.serralves.pt/en/activities/joan-miro-materiality-and-metamorphosis/

 

NYU DC Students Experience Travelers from the Lands of the Epic of Gilgamesh at the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC

First-year students in NYU Washington DC’s Cultural Foundations class had the opportunity to join Professor Alexander Nagel for a special opening of an exhibition of photographs documenting heritage preservation in Iraq at the Italian Embassy last month.

Dr. Carlo Lippolis, of the University of Turin in Italy and President of Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino (CRAST), visiting NYUDC class the day after the exhibition.

Dr. Carlo Lippolis, of the University of Turin in Italy and President of Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino (CRAST), visiting the NYUDC Cultural Foundations class.

To commemorate the opening, Dr. Carlo Lippolis, of the University of Turin in Italy and President of Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino (CRAST), presented Heritage in Danger: The Centro Scavi Torino and the Preservation of Iraqi Cultural Heritage, which highlights the work of the Center over the last ten years. Following the presentation, Dr. Lippolis visited the Cultural Foundations class for an additional discussion and question and answer session.

The following are reflections on the event and on Dr. Lippoli’s visit from NYUDC students.

Dr. Lippolis first introduced the Iraqi Italian collaboration efforts in rebuilding the displays of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. Preserving collections from ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian and Assyrian and Islamic civilizations, the museum holds objects from Uruk, a city the class just learnt about, while discussing cuneiform tablets and reading the fascinating stories from *The Epic of Gilgamesh* which was written over 3,000 years ago. Unfortunately, in April 2003, many precious artifacts were looted from the museum, and is a window to the past of Mesopotamia and human history. Despite the difficult political situation in Iraq, efforts to reopen the National Museum began in 2006. The Iraqi Italian teams cleaned and repaired artifacts, redesigned the galleries, created a timeline, and reinstalled the museum lighting. The museum was officially reopened to the public in February 2015. When Dr. Lippolis saw children lined up and eager to visit the museum, how they absorbed knowledge from the displays, and smiling at each other, he felt all of his team’s effort worth it.

Dr. Lippolis also introduced the audience to the reopening of the Iraqi-Italian Institutes in Baghdad earlier this year, in April 2016. Originally founded in 1969, the work of the Institute was halted during the Second Gulf War. He explained the mission of the Iraqi-Italian Institutes as to provide full cooperation on all issues raised by the Iraqi side, but especially to contribute to the safeguarding of the cultural heritage. After a retrieval of a historical building close to the Qislah, the old Turkish military quarters, the Institutes reopened with the purpose of contributing to the progressively wide-ranging safeguarding of the Iraqi cultural heritage and new archaeological and scientific research. He also spoke about his own excavations in Iraq. While there were Italian excavations at a site of named Seleucia earlier, since 2012 an Italian archaeological expedition began working in south-eastern Iraq on the site of Tulul al Baqarat. Altogether, it was great to gain so much insight into the work of European archaeologists in Iraq.

Jin Xiangru, Freshmen, NYU DC, Course “Cultural Foundations 1”

On the next afternoon, Dr. Lippolis joined us in the classroom at NYU DC. Here, we had the opportunity to learn more about the Italian and Iraqi collaborations, and we were able to ask questions about the practices of his work in Iraq. In his lecture on Wednesday evening, Dr. Lippolis had already introduced the efforts and work that went into the reopening of the Iraq Museum, and how the 2003 looting and the Iraq War halted archaeological research in Iraq. Dr. Lippolis continued to discuss how the damage and looting of sites has a lasting impact on the history of people. Some looted artifacts were returned to the museum in Baghdad by locals soon after the events happened in Baghdad. However, the museum curators were not able to verify all thefts, because archival documentation was destroyed along with some of the artifacts being looted. The 2003 looting had not only an impact on the artifacts that were damaged, but also on decades of research conducted. Dr. Lippolis introduced us to the history of the Iraq Museum and shared fascinating letters written by Gertrude Bell, the Iraq Museum founder. During her time, few women had access to education: against all odds, she got her education, and for the rest of her life she did not stop pursuing archaeology. After her death, the Iraq Museum changed locations, but they held on to her spirit for archaeology, and a sign with her name can be found by the Museum until this day. I was personally captivated by the diplomatic efforts and politics behind the reopening of the Iraq Museum in 2015. We learned about the work that went into planning of the layout, and the challenges in conserving and moving the sometimes very fragile artifacts.

My classmates and I were interested to learn more about the politics of archaeology. We wanted to know how embassies, diplomats, countries, and archaeologists co-operate with each other, about the work in recovering lost and looted pieces. Organizations such as Interpol monitor activities involved in the sale of looted objects yet the rise of the internet (and especially the dark net, as one student pointed out), presents new challenges and opportunities. This looting is a shame because history is being destroyed by greed. This practice should be outlawed. I can see where this behavior comes from, for since mankind started conquering other cultures, their first instinct was always to rob and destroy a culture. Culture unlike people changes and needs to be recorded before it is gone. The Iraqi locals that returned the stolen artifact set a great example of humanity and I became curious to learn more about Iraq.

My mother is from Vietnam and I was born in the Czech Republic. I spent most of my life outside of Vietnam, and I only had a few chances to interact with Vietnamese culture. Growing up I did not have too much of an interest in the country my parents grew up in, but it is something I regret now. I believe that preserving culture and history is important, so future generations will not have similar regrets as I did. The meeting with Dr. Lippolis provided me with important insights into understanding my own culture, because sympathy is the bridge to peace.

Thao Huong Tran, New York University, Washington, DC, Course “Cultural Foundations 1”

NYU Prague Site Director launches the English translation of his novel

Jiří Pehe is well-known as a political analyst, a prolific writer of news commentary and the former political adviser to President Vaclav Havel. Fewer people know that he is also a novelist who has published three books in Czech over the past ten years. In December, he launched the first English translation of one of his novels – Three Faces of an Angel – at the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague and at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London as well as at the Czech Embassy in London. Another launch is planned for the spring of 2015 in New York City.
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[Photo Credit: (c) Vaclav Havel Library / Vojtěch Stádník]
Described by Czech award-winning author Ivan Klima as “one of the most outstanding novels written in the Czech lands since 1989,“ Pehe’s book tells the story of three generations of a Czech-German-Jewish family in the 20th century. The tragic events of this period of Central European history are intertwined with the characters‘ stories: a talented musician is forced to become a soldier for the Austrian Empire during WWI… a teenage girl hides from the Nazis in a cellar for a year… an idealist joins the Communist party and is then persecuted by its leaders … a student fights for freedom during the Prague Spring….. Characters grapple with questions about history, politics, identity and religion. In the forward to the book, Dr. Marketa Goetz-Stankiewitz writes that „the novel uncovers this turbulent period with its linguistic, national and racial complexities: its brutality occasionally tempered by humour, and ultimately its absurdity.“
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[Photo Credit: (c) Vaclav Havel Library / Vojtěch Stádník]
Language plays a central role in the book: characters grow up speaking Czech and German, and the choice of which language to speak is closely linked to their sense of identity. Translator Gerald Turner had to find distinct voices for the three narrators: a man educated in German but writing in Czech, a woman with only an elementary-school education writing her memoir, and a Czech university professor living in the USA.
Jiří Pehe says: “I was pleasantly surprised by the large audiences at all three book launches as well as the lively discussions the novel’s themes provoked. Hopefully, many English-language readers will agree with the quote on the back cover by Tomas Halik, this year’s winner of the prestigious Templeton Prize; that this is an unusual novel about the 20th century, the Holocaust and in particular also about God. Those three topics were foremost on my mind when I starting writing the novel.“

NYU Prague Hosts Journalists from around the World

The collapse of the Iron Curtain led to the sudden creation of free media – so what does the media in post-Soviet countries look like today?
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Over 50 journalists, scholars, and media analysts from around the world met at NYU Prague last week to talk about this question – and many more – at a conference entitled 25 Years After: The Challenge of Building the Post-Communist Media and Communications Industries.
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The conference was co-organized by two Prague-based NGOs: Keynote and the newsmagazine Transitions Online. Jeremy Druker, Professor of Social Media Networking at NYU Prague and the co-founder of Transitions Online, explained their motivation for organizing the event: “Academics and working journalists don’t often mix. So we decided to create a rare opportunity where researchers on the media’s transition would sit side-by-side on panels with journalists experiencing that very transition from the inside.”
The variety of countries represented brought extremely different perspectives: in addition to numerous delegates from the Czech Republic, there were also speakers from Poland, Hungary, Belarus, Serbia, Italy, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Albania, Romania, Georgia, Austria, Belgium, France, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Canada, and the US. Their professions were also divergent, including professors, the senior communications manager of Google, activists, journalists, and analysts.
The shadow of Russia and her influence over post-Soviet countries loomed large in discussions. Keynote speaker Jeffrey Gedmin, former President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, noted that “Communism is not coming back, but history is coming back to this part of the world.”
Jiri Pehe, Director of NYU Prague, said he believes that media is more balanced and more pluralistic than it was initially after the fall of Communism, but it is now especially vulnerable to the rise of local oligarchs who are buying up media organizations. “You can establish democratic institutions quickly, but it takes a few generations to establish a democratic culture,” said Pehe. “We aren’t over the stage of post-Communism at all.”

GIFTED Women to Visit NYU

Ghanaian Institute for the Future of Teaching and Education (GIFTED) Women’s Fellowship Program is part of the larger “Ghana Wins! Project,” is a professional development program that aims to build capacity in women leaders in education. GIFTED began in June 2013 and is a partnership between New York University (NYU), Mujeres por Africa, and the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), sponsored by Banco Santander. Under the direction of principal investigator, Professor Kristie Koenig, chair of the department of Occupational Therapy at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, 12 Ghanaian women are participating in the first of three cohorts. Under the direction of these women, who are instituting data-driven educational programs in their local schools and communities, 203 children are actively engaged and benefitting from the projects. In June 2014, the “golden dozen” women of the first cohort will come to NYU in New York for a week-long culminating workshop with NYU faculty. Read more about the program here.

Dispatch from Accra

Akosua AnyidohoThe 2013-14 academic year got off to an exciting start with an important symposium to commemorate our 10th anniversary celebration. In cooperation with NYU Florence, NYU’s School of Medicine, and our local partner institution, the University of Ghana, Legon, we hosted the symposium, “Healing Environment and the Creative Arts.” The symposium was organized to create awareness of the immense role the creative arts play in wellness and in healing.
Speakers at the symposium included Dr. Cheryl Heaton, the Director of the NYU Global Institute of Public Health, who is also the Dean of Global Public Health, NYU. Dr. Richard Ingersoll from NYU Florence presented a paper on therapeutic gardens. Dr. Sammy Ohene, Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ghana Medical School spoke about traditional and modern healing in patient-doctor relationships. The local and international speakers explored important questions including how to define a positive healing space, how to provide a balanced healing relationship between patient and healer, and how to identify healing forces or measure healing outcomes. The event was well attended and well received, and we recently published a collection of the abstracts, which is available here (PDF).
During the fall semester, thirty-two students in Accra had the opportunity to select from seventeen courses taught by local part-time faculty and a visiting faculty member from NY. The courses included language study, literature, creative writing, music, film, public health, psychology, sociology, anthropology, history and metropolitan studies. The site welcomed a new faculty member, Dr. Alice Boateng, who took over the Internship Seminar and Fieldwork course.
In addition to their experiences in the classroom, most students participated in academic internships and volunteer or community service activities. These activities involved working at special schools, health facilities, microfinance institutions, government departments, non-for-profit organizations, and media outlets. Service learning is a flagship program of NYU Accra and provides valuable opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of the local society.
NYU Accra also welcomed the Center for Technology and Economic Development (CTED), a research center at NYU Abu Dhabi, which has just opened a facility across the road from NYU Accra. CTED focuses on the development of innovative and cutting edge technologies that can significantly impact economic development with a specific focus on problems faced in under-developed areas around the world.
Based in Abu Dhabi, CTED now maintains branches in New York, Accra, and soon Addis Ababa. CTED plans to involve both undergraduates at NYU Accra and resident Ghanaian scholars in its research activities.