Liz Magor and Nina Canell Pull Work from 500 Capp Street After Head Curator Layoff

500 Capp Street in 2015. (Photo: Henrik Kam; Courtesy 500 Capp Street Foundation)

Updated Thursday, 12:30pm

Canadian artist Liz Magor’s current exhibition at 500 Capp Street will close on Saturday, July 6, just two weeks after it opened.

Though TIMESHARE was originally scheduled to remain on view through Oct. 12, 500 Capp Street Foundation’s recent board decision to lay off its head curator, Bob Linder, coupled with what Magor's representatives call a lack of communication from the foundation, led the artist to request that her work be removed from 500 Capp Street, a nonprofit arts space and the former home of David Ireland.

In a Thursday email to KQED, Berlin-based artist Nina Canell, whose exhibition Drag-Out is on view in 500 Capp Street’s garage exhibition space, says she will also end her show early. “I have decided to withdraw my exhibition in solidarity with Liz’s and Bob’s departure,” Canell writes. “I remain grateful that I was given the opportunity to work in the context of the truly remarkable house of David Ireland and I am sad to see such a unique and thoughtful curatorial program discontinued.”

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New York artist Matt Connors, whose own exhibition was scheduled to open after Magor’s on Oct. 26, has preemptively canceled his show. Like Magor, he was not contacted by 500 Capp Street prior to learning about Linder’s dismissal.

“I took the laying off of Bob Linder and the new direction of the board at 500 Capp Street to effectively mean that my exhibition is cancelled,” Connors says in an email to KQED. As reported by ARTnews, 500 Capp Street’s newly appointed board chair Jock Reynolds reached out to Connors on Friday, asking that he continue with the show as planned. Connors declined.

Two other planned exhibitions during the run of Connors’ show—with artists Kitty Krauss and B. Wurtz—remain on the books according to 500 Capp Street director Cait Molloy. When asked what plans there are to replace Magor and Connor’s shows, Reynolds says the house will be reinstalled with Ireland’s work.

“I don’t ever want an artist to feel his or her work is on display in a situation they’re uncomfortable with,” he says of Magor’s decision to remove her art.

Magor is represented by three galleries—Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York, Susan Hobbs in Toronto and Catriona Jeffries in Vancouver. Hobbs, reached by email, says the decision to remove the work was completely Magor’s.

“Liz felt strongly that her work has been compromised by the actions of the board,” says Liz Mulholland, director and partner at Andrew Kreps. Combining cast and found objects, Magor’s show imagines itself as a short-term tenant in Ireland’s home—existing furniture is rearranged and covered by moving blankets as if someone is moving in or out of the space. According to the exhibition description, “Her artwork bumps David Ireland’s material world out of position, pushes him aside, and does so without apology.”

Liz Magor, 'Leather Palm,' 2019.
Liz Magor, 'Leather Palm,' 2019. (Courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver)

Andrew Kreps Gallery has previously interacted with 500 Capp Street for a show of Michael E. Smith’s work, whom they also represent. Mulholland characterized that process as “an amazing experience” and lamented how poorly the current situation has been handled, saying it was unclear for several days after Linder’s dismissal whether or not 500 Capp Street would even maintain gallery hours.

That confusion plagued outside observers as well; early rumors circulating on social media claimed curator Diego Villalobos had also been laid off. 500 Capp Street did not issue a public press release about the board’s decisions until June 29, three days after Connors first announced Linder’s layoff on social media.

The Bay Area arts community continues to vent frustration and outrage at the board’s stated goal of “re-balancing” 500 Capp Street’s exhibition program. Local artists drafted a letter titled “Petition to Replace the Board of 500 Capp Street,” exhorting the board to seek alternative funds—if indeed funding is the main concern—instead of eliminating the head curator position and the current incarnation of its exhibition program.

“No one expects [board member Carlie] Wilmans to fund the project alone,” the letter reads. “Everyone understands the stresses of finances, especially those of us in the arts. The undersigned have never been approached to fundraise, either by way of donating artwork to auction, or by being asked to donate money. We believe that the Foundation can support itself if given the opportunity.” The letter further calls for Linder to be reinstated as head curator.

In an email sent out to members of the Bay Area arts community on Tuesday, curator Jordan Stein called for people to join him at 500 Capp Street on July 6 for the last day of Magor’s show. “When they open at noon, I wonder if we might gather inside not only to salute Liz, Nina, Bob, Diego, and other staffers,” Stein writes, “but to show support for the type of commercial-free imagination that grows further endangered every afternoon around here.”

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