Hey, long time no see. I skipped December’s article due to several factors, most important among them the glacial pace of art news around the holidays. The only notes on my list were clickbate bullshit: the sentencing of Andrew Shannon, who punched a hole through a Monet in 2012, and the more recent the arrest of Megumi Igarashi, an artist arrested in Japan for selling 3D printing files of her vagina. And then there was the award of 2014’s Turner Prize to Duncan Campbell. Marc Fischer’s book about the Post Office, Deliverance, was also released by Soberscove Press.

Things got off to a slow start in January, but here’s what you should have noticed:

Charlie Hebdo

Oh, you missed this? Sorry. Rarely do the disparate narratives of artistic expression and international terrorism intersect, but this month they happened to meet in the slaying of twelve persons in Paris in an attach launched in revenge for the offensive cartoons of the prophet Mohammed published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. While the rest of the world argued about free speech and the relative merits and evils of religious violence, the art world produced a surprisingly paradoxical response:  while championing free speech as a traditional liberal value, artists were also quick to criticize the historical use of free speech as a tool of oppression and the ethics of “free speech advocates” who, like Charlie Hebdo, entertain mainstream audiences with edgy not-quite-hatespeech under the  protection of free speech.

Where does an event like January’s attack in Paris that leave us as artists? At least around here, creativity suggests a certain liberalism by default, and the idea of an artist using creative expression to advance a conservative, bigoted, or hateful worldview seems anathema to art itself. It is both possible and prevalent for ugly ideas to find expression in art. Of course, free speech is fundamentally a matter of law and governance and obviously the state has no business regulating the freedom of its citizens’ speech; however, free speech is not a guard against criticism. Think critically, take responsibility, and be happy that the worst you’ll get is (with rare exception) nonviolent critique from peers.


Theaster Gates Splits Artes Mundi Prize

This month Theaster Gates was awarded the £40,000 Artes Mundi Prize, the UK’s largest arts award. While accepting the award, Gates said, “Let’s split this motherfucker!” and did just that, sharing the prize with the nine other nominees. Good! The artist also recently split from Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago and is currently represented solely through White Cube, London.


Bowie Closes

The David Bowie Is exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art finally closed after more than four months and a record attendance of 190,000 people, well above the 150,000 figure expected by museum organizers. The show travels on to Paris in March.


Tuymans Guilty on Copyright Case

In wider art news, Luc Tuymans was found guilty of copyright infringement in Belgium. The court found that Luc’s portrait of Jean-Marie Dedecker had borrowed too heavily from Katrijn Van Geil’s photograph of the MP, published in De Standard. Tuymans’ defense was that this work was a parody; however the court ruled that the work lacked any humor, an essential element of a parody. Tuymans plans to appeal.


And that’s it for now. I feel like I’m setting my noticing threshold pretty high, but any lower and I’d start recommend you notice rumors about who’s leaving Chicago and what sold for what and where. Let’s look forward to a busy month next month and plenty more in February. Till then, keep watching the skies.

Steve Ruiz
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