Tinashe Mushakavanhu, Nontsikelelo Mutiti (2018)

Nearly forty years have passed since Zimbabwe gained their hard-won independence in 1980. In that time, citizens of the southern African state endured the mercurial weather of a fierce, authoritarian leader who only recently ceded the presidency following a successful coup d'état, complicating the already turbulent aftermath of colonial occupation that preceded Robert Mugabe's term.

Within this framework, the task of organizing a Zimbabwean cultural identity does, indeed, present a unique set of challenges that range from recovering lost and forgotten texts that survived tectonic shifts in power, to situating these materials in critical contexts that yield more possibilities and questions than they do answers. And that's where Black Chalk & Co. comes in, an art collective of two working to centralize the country's intellectual production throughout time in a collaborative, publicly-accessible archive called "Reading Zimbabwe." 

Much of what should populate the archive, co-founders of Black Chalk and Co. Tinashe Mushakavanhu and Nontsikelelo Mutiti told the NEW INC STREAM, has either been destroyed or is simply nonexistent, leaving considerable gaps in cultural memory that mire attempts at developing narrative continuities. What's more, Mushakavanhu says the literature and media that are available tend to frame Zimbabwean legacies from perspectives that rarely reflect the people's integrity and experiences. This absence, he explains, is a telling indication of the project's importance.

At its prime, Mushakavanhu and Mutiti would have Reading Zimbabwe take on a life of its own, running on the contributions of scholars, artists, and researchers like themselves to expand and deepen its scope and reach. In fact, the founders even imagine this model as a working-template that, in time and with more refinement, other groups can adopt for their own cultural agendas.

In their interview with the NEW INC STREAM, Black Chalk & Co. describe the privilege and precarity of constructing a historical foundation for generations of Zimbabweans worldwide, and emphasize the urgency of cultivating such an archive as a shared responsibility.

Read the full interview on NEW INC STREAM.


Petra Collins (2016)

When she isn’t staging photoshoots for Voguerunning her online arts collective the Ardorous, or giving interviews about her work, Petra Collins is often dreaming about public art commissions and other passion projects aboard flights to and from New York and Toronto.

I last spoke to Collins in March, following a performance piece that she and fellow Toronto-based artist Madelyne Beckles collaborated on at this year’s Art Production Fund gala. In that time, among other things, Collins directed a music video for pop star Carly Rae Jepsen; published a zine of photographs called “24-HOUR PSYCHO;” and mounted a solo exhibition in San Francisco.

At the moment, Collins is working on a new book of images which New York-based publisher Rizzoli will be rolling out next summer. “It’s one of the most personal things I’ve ever done,” Collins told me in a recent phone conversation. “I was shooting my entire family and childhood friends and my old neighborhood.”

From starting out as a dancer, to why fellow millennial artist Alex Da Corte is iconic, here’s what Collins had to say about the state of the art world today.

Read the full interview on artnet News.


Kimberly Drew (2016)

Equal parts organizer, curator, and digital media sensation, Kimberly Drew, otherwise known to her Internet fans as @museummammy, dubs herself a “#carefulblackgirl selling the shadow and supporting the substance.” The Instagram bio reads like a reminder—and in the case of an agent whose project involves “presenting multitudes,” the distinction matters.

Drew stands as one of black contemporary art’s most visible champions. With north of 100,000 followers subscribed to her Instagram handle alone–joined by thousands more across Twitter and Facebook—Drew’s presence is fortified by the type of institutional sheen that comes with running the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s social media channels.

Her rise in the art world started in 2011, on the heels of a summer-long internship with the Studio Museum’s Thelma Golden the year prior. That March, Drew launched a visual repository “for art by and about people of African descent” called Black Contemporary Art.

In July, Drew joined art historian Jessica Bell Brown, and writers Jessica Lynne and Taylor Renee Aldridge, in organizing the Black Art Incubator, a project that invited members of the public in a two-month long program of book exchanges, art critiques, panel discussions, and worshops in SoHo’s Recess exhibition space. The Village Voice described the venture as akin to a “secret clubhouse, convivial with an insider edge.”

We recently caught up with Drew to talk about what she’s been up to, her work at the Metropolitan Museum, and where she sees the art world going in 10 years’ time. See what she had to say below.

Read the full interview on artnet News.


Russell Tovey (2016)

Fans may recognize Russell Tovey as the beleaguered werewolf in BBC’s Being Human, Patrick’s love interest in HBO’s Looking, or, more recently, as the enigmatic new character on ABC’s runaway hit Quantico. But what may be lesser-known about the actor is his off-screen relationship with contemporary art—a serious passion he regularly touts on Instagram.

I last saw Tovey on the fair circuit during this year’s Armory Show, where he was standing in front of an enormous contour drawing by legendary Young British Artist Tracey Emin at Carolina Nitsch‘s booth. These days, Tovey told me, he’s been on the gallery crawl in New York whenever he has a spare moment, making the occasional studio visit along the way.

In a recent phone conversation, we talked about the artists he’s been interested in, the importance of collecting, and how he got into art. “As a kid I always connected to pop art through cartoons and comic books like Tintin and Marvel, and then discovering Keith HaringRoy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol,” he said. “I loved advertising art and people like Mel Ramos using that in his work, but I never realized that you could actually buy into art and live with it.”

See the rest of our conversation, and some of the works in his collection (like the Wolfgang Tillmans photograph pictured above), in the interview below.

Read the full interview on artnet News.


JiaJia Fei (2016)

When the Jewish Museum in Manhattan’s Upper East Side announced its newly-created digital director position at the tail-end of 2015, the institution, which was founded in 1904, made it known that they were ready for a change. Enter JiaJia Fei, then the Guggenheim’s associate director of digital marketing.

The symbiotic union gave way to a revamped digital strategy, access to their encyclopedic collection, and a number of interactive, runaway exhibitions—the most recent of which is titled “Take Me (I’m Yours),” which runs through February.

We caught up with Fei to talk about her year with the museum, what she’s been up to these days, and where she draws inspiration. As it turns out, Fei takes a cue from institutions beyond the art world. As she told artnet News in an email: “If NASA is able to help people better understand rocket science through social media, museums should rise to that same challenge.”

Read the full interview on artnet News.


Sree Sreenivasan (2016)

When Sree Sreenivasan stepped down as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s chief digital officer in June, many wondered where he’d land next. Less than two months later, mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the digital media powerhouse would reprise the same role for the city of New York, succeeding Jessica Singleton.

Sreenivasan is credited for implementing a number of successful initiatives during his term at the Met, including the creation of a museum app and a video series featuring interviews with artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Tom Sachs, and Lisa Yuskavage, among others.

We caught up with Sreenivasan a few weeks before he takes the helm as the city’s CDO on October 17. “I’m standing on the steps of the Met as I talk to you now,” Sreenivasan told artnet News over the phone. “I’ve had folks ask: Are you still involved with the Met? I say: Absolutely.”

Read the full interview on artnet News.


Jamillah James (2016)

With its rapidly expanding gallery scene in the Downtown Arts District and beyond, Los Angeles has been touted for its focus on hot new artists in recent years. The scramble to harness this youthful energy has also inspired museum redesigns left and right.

Enter Jamillah James, who joins the newly re-branded Institute of Contemporary Art, LA (formerly the Santa Monica Museum of Art) as its inaugural curator downtown. The appointment, which James characterizes as an institutional “slam dunk,” comes months after the ICA LA relocated to a sprawling 12,700-square-foot space in the Arts District.

“[The ICA LA] have been early supporters of countless artists I hold dear, like Liza Lou and Mickalene Thomas,” James explained in a phone conversation with artnet News, adding that “they’ve been a champion of artists of color which is important to me.” James told artnet News that she plans on delivering more of the same, with special attention to local artists as well as international names.

Read the full article on artnet News.


Cally Spooner (2016)

It’s hard to miss the performers moving around the New Museum’s lobby in New York. Beyond a glass partition that isolates the gallery from the cafe, a group of twentysomething dancers wearing workout clothes rearrange themselves throughout the day in curious and unpredictable positions. Cafe-goers nearby tend to crane their necks toward the glass to see the action.

Cally Spooner is the brains behind the project, and this show marks her institutional debut in the US. “On False Tears and Outsourcing,” which runs through June 19, is a performance that closely examines human behavior under what the artist describes as an unforgiving rubric of corporate logic.

The performance consists of a rotating cast of a handful of dancers engaged in what Spooner likens to stand-up scrums. “[It’s] a meeting you would use in an agile workplace like advertising or software development,” she explained in an interview with artnet News. She continued, “Employees need to self-organize themselves to produce products that are quite immaterial.”

Spooner describes herself as a director, rather than an artist; and looking back at her previous projects, it’s a role she seems to relish. In her 2013 commission for Performa, Spooner assembled 18 female acapella singers to re-enact events of the contemporary moment. The following year, Spooner hired three opera singers to perform at the High Line.

Read the full segment on artnet News.


Andrea Rosen (2016)

On the occasion of Felix Gonzalez-Torres‘s simultaneous, three-exhibition extravaganza in New York, London, and Milan, artnet News arranged a phone interview with his friend and art dealer Andrea Rosen.

Rosen has been managing his career (and, later, his estate) for over twenty-five years; and in the case of an artist whose conceptual offerings mystify most, she bears the unique challenge of keeping her friend’s ineffable vision alive.

“Every time I speak about his work, there’s the opportunity to nuance ideas,” Rosen explained, adding that conveying the openness in his practice is particularly difficult. This dilemma, ultimately, prompted her to withhold descriptions about the works in his summer shows altogether.

Rosen’s cautious posture is evidence of her unwavering commitment to the artist’s legacy. The decision to omit textual companions reflects Gonzalez-Torres’s own aversion to imposing narratives.

“All of his works are untitled,” she noted, “All of these narratives are outside of the quotations marks. There is no fact; there is no description. Everyone who loves Felix is about keeping the work open.”

Read the full article on artnet News.


Edward Mapplethorpe (2016)

Hand-picked portraits of curiosity, alarm, and self-possession take form in photographs of infants in Edward Mapplethorpe’s new book, “One: Sons & Daughters”—including that of the photographer’s own son. With over 150 images and spanning 20 years, it’s the longest-running project in his portfolio.

Mapplethorpe admits that these portraits were a commercial means to support his artistic practice. But after running through the contact sheets of his first commissioned shoot in 1996, Mapplethorpe says he saw something deeper in the work.

“I knew it was a difficult subject to photograph, but it just morphed into something,” Mapplethorpe told artnet News in a phone interview. “It’s become such a great body of work, and to deny that of my artistic practice is short-changing it.”

Read the full article on artnet News.


Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi (2015)

African art’s irresistible appeal has finally reached New York City.

Nigerian-born artist and scholar Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi has curated a group exhibition at Richard Taittinger Gallery in the Lower East Side. The show, aptly titled “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” after the 1967 American comedy-drama film of the same name, is comprised of 12 contemporary African artists evenly split between six men and six women.

Their points of origin, however, are anything but uniform. This curatorial decision is designed to “problematize the burden of Africanness,” which Nzewi describes in the show’s catalog as the “cultural aesthetics which continue to inform the reception of contemporary art by African artists in the Western and international imagination.”

Read the full article on artnet News.