New Calls for European Nations to Address Colonialist Past

Police Are Searching for a Man Who Attacked a British Museum’s Benin Bronzes After He Failed to Appear in Court

Source: Arnet News

Isaiah Ogundele is one of two men facing charges in Europe this month for dramatic protests against museums’ colonial-era artifacts.

  • Kate Brown- September 23, 2020
Curator Dr Caroline Bressey with a nineteenth century cast of a Yoruba bust, in the ‘London, Sugar & Slavery’ gallery at the Museum in Docklands, London. Photo: David Parry – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images.

Isaiah Ogundele, a 34-year-old man facing charges related to a protest action he staged in front of colonial artifacts at a London Museum in January, failed to appear for his court date last week. A representative for the Metropolitan Police told Artnet News that they are currently trying to track him down.

Ogundele has been charged with using “threatening, abusive, insulting words, or behavior with intent to cause harassment, alarm, or distress,” according to the Crown Prosecution Service. He was convicted in absentia at the September 18 hearing, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The inciting incident occurred when Ogundele was visiting the Museum of London Docklands’s exhibit “London, Sugar, & Slavery,” dedicated to the city’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Angered by the content—which included, according to a statement from the museum, a selection of Benin Bronzes and other Ife replica pieces on loan from the British Museum—he reportedly charged the display and toppled the sculptures from their plinths in an attempt to seize them. The Telegraph reported that he said he was “not over slavery” and sought to return the objects to their rightful home. The objects have since been removed from view, according to the museum.

The precious bronze plaques and sculptures, which are held in many museums in Europe and around the world, were pillaged by the British navy during an attack on the royal palace in Benin City, Nigeria, in 1897. Calls for their return have been growing amid increased pressure for European nations to address their colonial pasts.

Ogundele is not the only person to take dramatic and direct action inside a European institution this year to protest the presence of African cultural heritage. Congolese activist Mwazulu Diyabanza is facing trial next week in Paris for a widely publicized action he led at the Musée du quai Branly in June, when he removed a funerary object of colonial-era origin, saying the museum was not its rightful owner. He carried out two similar actions in Marseille and in the Netherlands this year.

Reached by Artnet News, Diyabanza—who sees his acts as part of a broader push for reparations for cultural expropriation—expressed his “support and solidarity with the target.”

“It is a disgrace to the supposedly democratic monarchy of Great Britain to condemn someone for peacefully expressing their opinions,” Diyabanza said. “The British judiciary has just rallied without any resistance behind the injunctions of an oligarchy that refuses to see Africa gain access to its cultural heritage and priceless heritage.I redouble my efforts to win the September 30th trial for the restoration of the historical truth and the restitution of our heritage.”

All the works targeted by Ogundele were on long-term loan from the British Museum. On view were two replicas cast of the head of an Ife man dating to the 14th century; the cast of the head of an Ife King (dating to between 1100–1300), as well as an original Benin water container from the 1500s and a Benin brass plaque from the 1500s.

According to the Telegraph, museum manager Henry Martin recounted that Ogundele “said the object had been stolen from his heritage” and that the pieces “had been stolen and he wanted to take them back.”

Artnet News was not able to reach Ogundele for comment.

Update, September 24: The Crown Prosecution has corrected its earlier statement in which it said Ogundele was not convicted in absentia. He has, the body now tells Artnet News. The article has been updated accordingly.

Banksy: Street Art Copyright

Banksy loses copyright to ‘Flower Thrower’ West Bank artwork after refusing to reveal identity to judges

Source: Evening Standard

Banksy has lost copyright for one of his most famous artworks after refusing to reveal his identity to judges.

The anonymous artist spent two years battling card company Full Colour Black in the courts over the copyright to “Flower Thrower”.

Banksy painted “Flower Thrower” on the walls of the West Bank in Jerusalem.

However, in a move that could set a precedent for his other artworks, judges ruled he can not claim an EU trademark for the piece because “he cannot be identified as the unquestionable owner of such works as his identity is hidden”, the MailOnline reported.

Banksy set up a shop to sell his goods in Croydon (Getty Images)

Banksy had previously claimed that “copyright was for losers”, and in his 2006 book “Wall and Peace” had made his artwork freely downloadable, promising to never commercialise his works.

Last October he set up a shop to sell his artwork in Croydon and claimed the sole purpose of the venture was to “fulfil his trademark obligations”.

The judges said his intention to “circumnavigate the law” rather than commercialise his goods was in bad faith.

Goods were available to view in the shop, but could only be bought online (AFP/Getty Images)

The panel of judges, part of the European Union Intellectual Property Office, said: “Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous and for the most part to paint graffiti on other people’s property without their permission rather than to paint it on canvases or his own property.

“He has also chosen to be very vocal regarding his disdain for intellectual property rights.

“It must be pointed out that another factor worthy of consideration is that he cannot be identified as the unquestionable owner of such works as his identity is hidden; it further cannot be established without question that the artist holds any copyrights to graffiti.”

Judges ruled his efforts to ‘ciecumvent property law’ were dishonest (AFP/Getty Images)

Banksy’s identity has been subject to speculation for years. Earlier this month former Art Attack presenter Neil Buchanan denied he was Banksyafter a social media rumour gained traction.

The rumour, which did the rounds on Twitter, suggested Banksy’s art had popped up in locations where Mr Buchanan had performed music. Mr Buchanan became a familiar face in many households in the UK between 1990 and 2007 through his role on ITV’s Art Attack.

Banksy, meanwhile, recently sprayed the inside of a London Underground train carriage with messages about the spread of coronavirus, before it was removed by Transport for London.More about: | Banksy Jerusalem EU

Art and Racism. Art Education

Interview

Artist Toyin Ojih Odutola: ‘Through drawing, I can cope with racism, sexism, cultural friction’

Killian Fox

Source: The Guardian

Toyin Ojih Odutola
Toyin Ojih Odutola: ‘I wanted to flip the script in every aspect.’ Photograph: Beth Wilkinson

Ahead of a new Barbican show, the visual artist discusses being a ‘weird, creative type’ and why moving to Alabama made her question everything

Killian Fox

Published onSat 1 Aug 2020 14.00 BST

Toyin Ojih Odutola was born in Ife, Nigeria, in 1985. She moved to the US aged five, first to Berkeley, California, then to Huntsville, Alabama, where her father worked as a professor and her mother as a nurse. Ojih Odutola is renowned for her intricate portraits drawn with ink, pastel and charcoal. Zadie Smith called her “one of the most exciting young artists working today”, and has written an introduction to Ojuh Odutola’s new Barbican show, A Countervailing Theory.

Your new show imagines an ancient civilisation in central Nigeria where women rule over an underclass of black male humanoids. How did this idea come to you?
It came from two separate incidents: one was reading an article about rock formations in central Nigeria, which indicated that some ancient civilisation had arranged them in such a way; the second was from an episode of the BBC podcast A History of the World in 100 Objects on the Ife head. A German archaeologist discovered the [centuries-old brass statue] in 1910 and couldn’t conceive of Nigerians having the mental aptitude to create such anatomically correct and beautiful objects, so he decided that Greeks from Atlantis had made it. I started asking, who has a right to create their own stories? I wanted to create a work of art that, visually, stood apart from occidental picture-making, that felt very “other”.

To See and to Know; Future Lovers: Toyin Ojih Odutola

To See and to Know; Future Lovers by Toyin Ojih Odutola from her new show, A Countervailing Theory. ©Toyin Ojih Odutola

How did you go about it?
I wanted to flip the script in every aspect. For example, the surface I’m working on is black, as opposed to the neutral white we’re used to marking on. It was really challenging: what you’ll see in the Barbican is the culmination of nearly 14 months’ work.

I’m very fortunate – I have really badass, beautiful people around me who compel me to draw them

In the world you’ve created, black women are powerful, but they could also be seen as oppressors.
I’m always interested in how power dynamics play out. People often argue that if you’ve been subjugated your whole life, and you’ve seen how power is abused, you would treat people better, you wouldn’t be an oppressor. I’m always the person who goes: “Would you, though?” That’s what drove the story for me.Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

You are known for creating elaborate fictional worlds, with the story unfolding across a series of drawings. What attracts you to that way of working?
I think I’ve always wanted to work this way, but when I was studying art in school, I was pushed towards identity art. Because I am a black woman, they were like, the only thing of worth you can offer is yourself. But as I started working professionally, I realised that what I really like is telling stories. It freed me up from being beholden to my own story. My story’s not that interesting. You can find out where I was born on Google. What I’m interested in is the “could” – the possibility of something – not the “should” or the “would”.

When an idea starts to come together in your head, what’s the next step? Do you write it down in words before drawing it?
Absolutely. I need text to give me a framework. The images are working in response to it. I do a lot of research, but I will also be in the studio testing out materials and pushing myself creatively. I’m known for my very layered, intricate mark-making, but I got complacent with a certain style and I wanted to see where else I could go.

The Privilege of Placement (2017)

The Privilege of Placement (2017). © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

You moved to the US when you were five, and lived in Berkeley before moving to Alabama. What were those transitions like?
It wasn’t until we moved to Alabama that I really got a history lesson in America, and what it is to be black, which at that point was not really a preoccupation of mine. So Alabama was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because it made me question everything. Why am I being treated like this? Why am I aberrant in these contexts and not in others? Luckily, I discovered drawing. Through drawing, I could cope with the racism, the sexism, the cultural friction. It helped me disassociate a little bit and understand that this is a systemic problem, a societal imposition.

You grew up in the same town – Huntsville – as the Ghanaian-American novelist Yaa Gyasi. Did you know her as a kid?
Oh yeah, we totally hung out. She’s amazing. We were both weird, creative types. We loved stories. It’s nice when you know someone you share history with: when I talk to her now it’s really refreshing, because she has a lot of the same reference points that I have.

Solange Knowles is an avid collector of your work. How did you meet?
Solange is a dear friend. She was one of the very first people to reach out to me as a fan and be a patron. She has a deep knowledge of design and art history. She models for me as well. I feel bad because I force her to do these poses. We’re hanging out and I say “Oh you look really cool there”, and I’ll take a photo and it ends up being a drawing. She’ll be like: “When did that happen?”

So when you draw someone, it’s not based on a formal sitting?
It’s very misleading when people call me a portraitist. I work from photography and often it’s a composite of multiple people. But I’m very fortunate that I have really badass, beautiful people around me that compel me to draw them.

Were you meant to be coming over to London ahead of your show?
It changed at the last minute [because of coronavirus restrictions]. We installed the show via Skype. It looks amazing, but it’s really strange not to be in the space experiencing the work as it goes up.

Droit de suite. Diritto di Rivendita. Art Law Resale

How a New Kind of Artist Contract Could Provide a Simple, Effective Way to Redistribute the Art Market’s Wealth

KADIST’s new resale rights proposal could help artists take back their market.

Source: ArnetNews

Joseph del Pesco, International Director of KADIST. Image by Al McElrath.. Image by Al McElrath.
Joseph del Pesco, International Director of KADIST. Image by Al McElrath.. Image by Al McElrath.

I wasn’t sure we were onto something until I learned that in 1992 artist Cady Noland, well known for her complex portrayals of a violent and divided America, once attached a contract to the sale of two artworks that set specific terms—if the work was resold, 15 percent of the profits would be sent to Partnership for the Homeless. What little is known about this contract suggests it was attached to two silk-screen prints. Fortunately Partnership is still running decades later, so if those artworks were resold today they would generate an unexpected donation to a deserving nonprofit. And as an incentive for going to the trouble, the (re)seller would be eligible for a tax deduction.

Starting around two years ago, I found myself thinking about artist contracts after the repeal of the California Resale Royalties Act (CRRA), a law that for more than 40 years gave California artists 5 percent of resale profits under specific conditions. It was the only such law in the nation, and the last vestige of a movement to address the inequitable distribution of wealth in a rapidly growing art market. If you’re an artist, you likely know: the first time an artwork is sold, the artist benefits, but when an artwork is sold again, only the seller benefits, not the artist. The movement sought to enable artists to preserve some role in the future of their artwork, to make it so that they might continue to benefit from their hard work on its behalf, and that it might retain some of their personal or political values after it leaves the studio.

Imagine a scenario where an artist is asked to speak at Museum X on behalf of an artwork they sold for $1,000 to a collector/dealer, who subsequently sold it to Museum X for $50,000. The artist, of course, received no portion of the $49,000 in profit generated by their artwork, and yet they are asked to act on its behalf (often for a small honorarium). This inequitable distribution has become so obvious now that over 70 countries around the world have added artwork resale laws to compensate artists.Graphic for KADIST's new Artist Contrat.

Graphic for KADIST’s new Artist Contrat.

Losing the CRRA felt like a step backwards, for artists and for the arts. Because I work for KADIST, which has an office in San Francisco, I started thinking about the larger political implications, the backtracking of liberal gains. This led me to historical precedents, and the “The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer And Sale Agreement,” drafted by Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky in 1971. The contract emerged from conversations with groups of progressive artists, collectors, lawyers, dealers, and critics in New York City. In addition to resale benefits, the contract secured artists rights and controls over their work after its sale, some of which are now covered by the Visual Artists Rights Act, passed into US law in 1990.

A few months later, during a conversation with the painter Amy Sherald, I sketched out an idea for a new version of the contract. After getting the support of Lauren van Haaften-Schick, a historian who studies artist contracts and artists’ rights law, I took the project to another friend, a lawyer, collector and supporter of the arts, Laurence Eisenstein, who revised it for us, pro bono.Mock-up draft of the Artist's Contract in English (ca. 1971). Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art.

Mock-up draft of the Artist’s Contract in English (ca. 1971). Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art.

Today, we have created a contract that enables an artist to designate a charitable organization to receive a percentage of the resale profit of an artwork. Accompanying the ready-to-fill-out contact, Lauren has written a deeply researched, long-form introduction detailing how our contract enables the “wealth created by the resale of an artwork to serve a general good, as a future investment in organizations that exemplify the values of the artist.” As in Cady Noland’s contract, an artist selects a nonprofit, names them in the contract, and if the work increases in value, a percentage of that profit is sent to the charitable organization as a gift, supporting their cause. We liked this variation because it addresses some of the criticisms of the Siegelaub-Projansky contract (that only successful artists benefit from its use), and that it redistributes wealth to produce social good, but the clincher is that it’s practical. Because the money goes to a charitable organization, the reseller gets a tax deduction when they make the donation, creating an incentive to follow-through.

Lauren and I recognize that many artists are resistant to the idea of introducing a contract during the process of a sale. Especially when there’s no gallery to work as an intermediary, negotiations can be delicate and confusing. We are betting that because of the tax deduction, the buyer will immediately understand they stand to benefit in the future (if they decide to resell the artwork), and that this will make it easier—and that tax-deductions are common enough in the arts to be non-threatening, even familiar.Amy Sherald in her studio, 2019. Photo: Melanie Dunea, courtesy of Hauser & Wirth.

Amy Sherald in her studio, 2019. Photo by Melanie Dunea, courtesy of Hauser & Wirth.

While I know many artists share the progressive social values of Cady Noland, and would happily see some ancillary benefit to the world produced by their artwork, this contract also suggests a less obvious possibility: artists can direct the resale percentage to a non-profit they start and run themselves. This is what I had in mind when I suggested the idea to Amy Sherald. She was considering starting a non-profit education program, and I thought that the resale of her artworks might provide a source of funding, eventually. Consider the millions that the Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Joan Mitchell foundations (to name just a few) have given to artists and arts organizations over the years. In this way, artists can both benefit themselves and the artist community.

The monetary impact of this contract wouldn’t be immediate. To see them, you have to peer into a world ten or so years into the future. And I know that taking the long view doesn’t come easily to anyone concerned about paying next month’s rent, nurturing the next opportunity, or fighting for visibility. But these unprecedented times can serve as exceptional ruptures in the status quo. With Black Lives Matter, and other activist organizations gaining momentum across the country, and the need for a sustained movement, not just starting (or putting out) fires in the present, this contract offers an opportunity to align future profits with your political and social values.

It appears that the two serigraphs associated with the contracts used by Cady Noland sold for $2,000 each in 1992. And in 2019, a serigraph of the same size (possibly a related print) sold at auction for $20,000. Now if we imagine a scenario where the two serigraphs listed in the aforementioned contract were sold today, they’d generate a $5,400 donation to Partnership for the Homeless. Zooming out, sales of art in the US reached $29.9 billion in 2018, and while the market has changed in recent months because of COVID-19’s impact on the global economy, we can expect that the circulation of incredible sums will continue.

Imagine if just 2 percent of that $29.9 billion did some good. That’s 600 million dollars reaching charitable organizations, about four times the yearly budget of the National Endowment for the Arts. Now imagine if that $600 million was controlled by non-profits run by artists…

The new contract is online, ready to fill-out and print at artistcontract.org.

Joseph del Pesco is the International Director of the KADIST.

Should Nazi-Looted Art Act be equalled to Museum Decolonisation?

Colonial art in UK museums is similar to Nazi-looted works, says charity boss

Source: The Guardian

Dr Errol Francis said venues should support decolonisation of their collections

Benin Bronzes
The Benin Bronzes, which are currently on display at the British Museum, were looted by British forces in 1897. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Colonial-era artefacts taken by British forces should be regarded in the same way as Nazi-looted art, according to the director of an arts charity who is calling for a dramatic overhaul of the sector in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dr Errol Francis, CEO and artistic director of Culture&, released an “agenda for action” consisting of a seven-point charter, which says galleries and museums should support the decolonisation of their collections, start restitution processes and reword artwork titles that are racially sensitive.

Francis told the Guardian it was hypocritical for institutions, including the British Museum, to make statements in support of Black Lives Matter when they possess items taken by force from African nations, such as the Benin Bronzes that were looted in 1897.

He said: “I think that the provenance thing is very similar to the works that were seized by the Nazis. It should be considered in the same way and objects that were taken illegally should be returned.”

“The museums themselves have this relationship with colonial violence. So when they made these statements about supporting Black Lives Matter, I think it actually drew it attention to their own complicity in similar acts,” Francis added.

Hartwig Fischer, the British Museum’s director, wrote a blog in June that said the museum stands in solidarity with “the British Black community, with the African American community, with the Black community throughout the world,” and was “aligned with the spirit and soul of Black Lives Matter everywhere.”

Several prominent galleries and museums responded to the Black Lives Matter movement with public statements of support, with Tate and Somerset House committing to creating internal anti-racism taskforces, while the V&A said it would plan “public programming directly connected to global histories”.

The Barbican released a six-point plan, which includes “removing institutional barriers” for black employees and having “open conversations with our staff”, while the Science Museum said it would publish its “equity framework” this summer. The Southbank Centre said it was consulting with staff before responding.

Other institutions, including the The National Gallery were criticised for their responses which made no mention of George Floyd whose death triggered worldwide protest, or the Black Lives Matter movement. Artist Evan Ifekoya, who is the only permanently employed black member of academic staff within the art department at Goldsmiths, said they were withdrawing their labour because of what they described as “institutional, structural and economic” racism.

Francis says many of the institutional responses rang “hollow” or were too vague, and lacked concrete plans, commitment of resources and investment.

“In some ways, I think for a lot of the people who put up these statements or the black squares, it was almost like an expression of white guilt or shame. We want to highlight the contradictions and say to people, if you want to support this campaign, these are the things you have to do,” he added.

In an interview with the BBC Fischer said institutions have to deal with the fact “slavery has been an integral part of the European economy for centuries” and it needs to be addressed. “We need to widen the scope, we need to deepen the work and look at the history of our institution as a whole,” he added.

Last year, former culture secretary Jeremy Wright ruled out returning objects held in national museums favouring what he called “cultural cooperation” and long-term loans instead.

Legislation currently prevents national institutions from returning looted items in their collections, except in the case of art stolen during the Nazi-era. The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act gives institutions the power to return items in their collections to their original owners or heirs. Before its enforcement, national museums were prevented from returning the items.

A spokesperson said the British Museum stood by its BLM statement, adding: “We are committed to an ongoing review of how we present objects, including being open about the history of the collection.

“We are currently in the process of rethinking how we display the Benin collections, fully acknowledging how they entered the museum. Additionally, we are considering how we can represent a range of perspectives on the collections within the displays, including through building upon our close working relationship with Nigerian partners, and representing a range of other public voices.”

The charter was compiled by Culture& and participants of its The New Museum School initiative, which places BAME trainees in cultural institutions. It also called for statements of support for black Britons who had been the victims of police violence, and diverse programming that appealed to black audiences. It recommends that public funding bodies, such as Arts Council England, should make institutions more accountable and create measurable targets with regards to diversity and anti-racism.

Francis said that without change, British cultural institutions could alienate a whole generation of young people who will turn away from them. “I think that young people will really not want to engage with museums and the risk is alienating a whole new generation of people. That is the big risk,” he said.

“The current approach is going to create more alienation, not just from BAME communities, but young white people who are just as passionate about this thing, which we saw when they tore down the Colston statue.”

Banksy’s New Artwork: Black Lives Matter

Source: CNN Written by Elizabeth Wells, CNN Alicia Lee, CNN

Banksy shares new artwork supporting Black Lives Matter and says it’s on white people to fix systemic racism

anksy, perhaps the best-known anonymous artist and social critic in the world, is showing his support for the Black Lives Matter movement with a new piece of art and a stark message: “People of Colour are being failed by the system.”Black Lives Matter protests have spread across the globe for the past two weeks following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in police custody in the US on May 25. Banksy’s latest work, unveiled in an Instagram post, depicts how Floyd’s death has shaken the United States.The piece is composed of a framed black figure with a candle and flowers surrounding it. An American flag hanging overhead has been lit on fire by the candle beneath.

A detail from Banksy's new artwork.

A detail from Banksy’s new artwork. Credit: Banksy/From InstagramAlong with the artwork, Banksy made his thoughts on systemic racism crystal clear.”At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem. It’s mine,” Banksy wrote on his Instagram post, which has garnered over 2 million likes.Banksy donates new artwork honoring health care workers to hospital“People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs.”This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in,” the artist added.

The artwork was posted to Banksy's Instagram account.

The artwork was posted to Banksy’s Instagram account. Credit: Banksy/InstagramA Black Lives Matter protest took over the streets of Bristol, England, on Sunday near where Banksy is presumed to have been born. Local police estimated that 10,000 protesters participated.Banksy and the tradition of destroying artDuring the protest, demonstrators pulled down a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston. Protesters cheered and celebrated at the sight of the bronze statue being brought down, but police say an investigation has been launched to identify those involved.CNN’s Max Foster and Nada Bashir contributed to this report.

Also about Banksy read:

Banksy Girl with Ballon. Art Law Editorial by Damian M. Dellaqueva

Street Art: Cultural Integration

EL SEED IS THE FRENCH-TUNISIAN STREET ARTIST CREATING MESSAGES OF HOPE

Source: Hunger

All images Courtesy of eL Seed and Lazinc Gallery
Main image Lost Walls, Tunisia – eL Seed, 2014
Words Fiona Mahon

Disruptive, provocative and healing – eL Seed’s work reimagines Arabic calligraphy through modern graffiti.

Encouraging understanding and human connection, eL Seed’s art is a beacon of hope in a world divided.  The French-Tunisian artist creates street art that seamlessly brings together the contrasting traditions of ancient Arabic calligraphy and graffiti art, using them to spread messages of freedom, empowerment and love.

Best known for the striking, disruptive murals he paints in public spaces around the world – including a controversial mural painted on the minaret of a Tunisian mosque in 2012, and a 2016 piece spanning 50 buildings in Cairo’s Manshiyat Naser neighbourhood – the artist invites us to cast aside our preconceptions about language and heritage.

‘Positive Energy’ – Dubai, eL Seed

Growing up in Paris in the 1980s and 1990s, he became immersed in the culture of graffiti from a young age.  But it wasn’t until his late teens that the artist reconnected with his roots in Tunisia, learning to read and write in Arabic.

Experiencing the upheaval of the 2011 Tunisian Revolution first hand, eL Seed became an important part of a movement of creatives leveraging the power of art and language to provoke cultural and political change.  Since then he has painted murals across Tunisia, and in London, Toronto, Doha and Melbourne, set up a studio in Dubai and collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a collection of accessories.

eL Seed and Louis Vuitton, 2013

Placing the Arabic language at the heart of his work, eL Seed’s distinctive visual style is layered with meaning, directly addressing misconceptions around Arabic culture.  Inviting us to unravel and play with the symbolic quality of language – ‘Tabula Rasa’, his first ever UK exhibition at London’s Lazinc gallery – presents a new approach to his work, with an unfinished, raw quality to his pieces.

We talked to him about his process of creation and the role that art can play in healing divides between cultures.

‘Picabia’ – eL Seed for Tabula Rasa, 2019

Hi eL Seed, what can we expect from Tabula Rasa?

For this exhibition, I have taken my process a step further by attempting to strip down my thought process as an artist, in an effort to access my own tabula rasa, if indeed it is possible. Expect to get a better grip of Arabic script and its beauty through a calligraphic experience.

Where did the concept originally come from?

I take the idea of tabula rasa as a starting point and implant it onto the deep-seated preconceptions that are commonly held about the Arabic script and culture. The idea of the human mind as a ‘tabula rasa’ occurred late in the 17th century, when the English philosopher John Locke in An Essay concerning human understanding (1689), argued for the mind’s initial resemblance to “white paper, void of all characters,” with “all materials of reason and knowledge” derived from experience. Essentially, he says that the human mind at birth is a complete, but a receptive, blank slate (or tabula rasa) upon which experience imprints knowledge.

‘Locke I’ – eL Seed for Tabula Rasa, 2019

The works have an unfinished style to them which is a departure from your usual aesthetic – is your intention to leave room for the audience to add meaning?

It is an invitation for people to discover. The surface calligraphy that seems to be ripped and torn to reveal the bones and structure of the words below and the final message, materializes slowly and differently with each viewing.

‘Locke II’ – eL Seed for Tabula Rasa, 2019

You use your work to build bridges between cultures and people, do you think art can help heal the divisive nature of our world today? 

I truly believe that art is a way to open dialogue. I believe that my artwork can cut through the boundaries that we place between ourselves; whether physical, cultural or linguistic. My exhibition at Lazinc represents a new style of painting, where I am attempting to break down my thought process into layers. It also asks the audience to question the way they think and how much they have been affected by assumption or misconception.

Are there any specific experiences you’ve had where you feel your own work has helped connect or transform people?

My project ‘Perception’ inside the Cairo garbage collectors neighborhood proved to me how art can switch perception, bring light to a community and create amazing human experiences. The community used to be called ‘Zabaleen’ which the means literally the ‘Garbage people’. The project had such an amazing impact in the press that it allows to spread their real name and tell in a certain way their story and how important they are to the city of Cairo. This community has developed the most powerful recycling system in the world and most people don’t know it.

‘Perception’ was surprising to me in so many ways. I went with the intention of raising awareness about the area, but the profound effect these people had on me makes me passionate about telling their story and attempting to redress the negative perceptions that hang over the area not just within Cairo but across the region and the rest of the world.

‘Perception’ – Cairo, eL Seed, 2016

You take your work out of the gallery and into public spaces – what’s the experience like of creating something of this scale?  How is the dynamic different from creating a gallery show?

It was truly the most humbling experience of my life – the people of Manshiyat Nasr in Cairo are innovative, smart, generous, welcoming and completely misunderstood. That is why I called my project Perception.  I need projects in the public space to give the energy and the inspiration for my work in the studio. They are both connected.

What can the art world do to create more inclusive experiences? Is street art key to this?

Art is a way to open a dialogue as I mentioned, be it street art or any form of art in that matter. For me, personally, it is important to create human interaction whenever I make murals on public spaces or just creating a canvas on my studio. I love the experience we create around the art piece that brings people together.

Mural in Cape Town, eL Seed, 2012

What does the use of Arabic calligraphy mean for you symbolically and personally in your work?

I perceive my artwork as a tangible expression of my search for identity, both as an individual and as an artist. My compositions, that combines the freestyle technique of street art with traditional Arabic calligraphy, reflect the tension represented in my hyphenated identity. Arabic calligraphy helped me reconcile two parts of my identities. Today, I use it as a tool to bring people, culture and generations together.

Lost Walls, Tunisia – eL Seed, 2014

Who are some artists inspiring you right now?

Sundus Abdulhadi , Ruben Sanchez.

Thank you eL Seed!

Find out more about eL Seed’s Tabula Rasa exhibition at Lazinc Gallery in London.

You can also read: Aesthetic and Moral Judgment in Art ? Art Law by Damián M. Dellaqueva

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Digital Right Management in the Art world

Internet traffic in general has increased by 80% as a consequence of the pandemic.
Some sensations of the aesthetic experience of the Works of Art having a complex legal nature can be revived in the intangible atmosphere of Internet.

Banksy Girl with Balloon. Art Law Editorial by Damian M. Dellaqueva

For many years Museums have offered the public access to contents through technology and at present they make use of new strategies.

Art in Times of Covid-19

What can be mentioned is the case of the Open Content Program of J. Paul Getty Trust. It consists of the digitalization of Works of Art and the works “Born Digital”.

The Da Vinci Codescope: A new way to look at Leonardo By Bill Gates

Different sectors of the so-called cultural industry have developed private liquid formats with third generation business purposes, which are distributed and reproduced online, such as the case of the cinema, music, editorial, photography, which can also be considered for the Art Ecosystem throught program designs as well as technological systems that consider the management of Intellectual Property Rights on the reproduction of each one of the pieces and catalogues of the collection, with a licence, right cessions, adherence contracts, considering the technological protection and limitation of Authors’ Rights. Throught the use of protection technology and the the access with matrixes, beyond the whole or nothing concept and with the possibility of identifying the users’ end for their liberation.

Or rather it could be considered to create an opener free circulation system
(J.P. Paul Getty Trust model) having educational research non-business purposes, which would pose higher levels of complexity and barriers and which requires further articulation, reaching an agreement as to all the interests and rights of the actors of the Digital Ecosystem and Art, which to become sustainable should at least involve Museums or the proposed Actor such as an Art Gallery, Collectors or Artists and technology manufacturers, technology professionals, Institutions that defend public interest and the Consumer.
In line with the Author Rights Protection and their exceptions, in the Information Society, ruled in the OMPI, extending to the intangible atmosphere and ratified by the American system of the Digital Millennium Copyright , the European system of the Digital Copyright and its respective rules.

Covid-19 Art: Banksy

New Banksy artwork appears at Southampton hospital

Source: BBC News

New Banksy artwork, paying tribute to the NHS

A new Banksy artwork has appeared at Southampton General Hospital.

The largely monochrome painting, which is one square metre, was hung in collaboration with the hospital’s managers in a foyer near the emergency department.

It shows a young boy kneeling by a wastepaper basket dressed in dungarees and a T-shirt.

He has discarded his Spiderman and Batman model figures in favour of a new favourite action hero – an NHS nurse.

The nurse’s arm is outstretched and pointing forward in the fashion of Superman on a mission.

She is wearing a facemask, a nurse’s cape, and an apron with the Red Cross emblem (the only element of colour in the picture).

The artist left a note for hospital workers, which read: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only black and white.”

The painting will remain at Southampton General Hospital until the autumn when it will be auctioned to raise money for the NHS.

Paula Head, CEO of the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our hospital family has been directly impacted with the tragic loss of much loved and respected members of staff and friends.

“The fact that Banksy has chosen us to recognise the outstanding contribution everyone in and with the NHS is making, in unprecedented times, is a huge honour.”

She added: “It will be really valued by everyone in the hospital, as people get a moment in their busy lives to pause, reflect and appreciate this piece of art. It will no doubt also be a massive boost to morale for everyone who works and is cared for at our hospital.”

The artwork is now on view to staff and patients on Level C of the Southampton General.

Also read:

Banksy Girl with Ballon. Art Law Editorial by Damian M. Dellaqueva