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Further Fallout at San Francisco’s 500 Capp Street, as Nina Canell and B. Wurtz Pull Exhibitions and Discontent Builds

Inside 500 Capp Street.

Inside 500 Capp Street.

COURTESY 500 CAPP STREET

Nina Canell, the sculptor and installation artist, chose on Friday to cancel her exhibition “Drag-Out” at 500 Capp Street in San Francisco, marking the latest cancellation of a show since the surprise layoff of head curator Bob Linder last week. The exhibition, which was to continue through August 17, will close on Saturday.

After Canell’s announcement, ARTnews learned that B. Wurtz—the New York-based artist who had a 500 Capp Street show scheduled to open in December—asked that his exhibition be canceled as well.

Last Friday, Matt Connors called off a show at 500 Capp Street scheduled for October, followed by an additional point of protest registered Tuesday when Liz Magor chose to terminate her show already in progress (and now set to conclude along with Cannell’s this weekend).

The layoff of Linder came with news that, beginning next year, 500 Capp Street—which is situated in the former home of the late conceptual artist David Ireland—plans to cut back on exhibitions by visiting artists and focus more heavily on Ireland’s own work.

In a statement to ARTnews, Canell said, in reference to Magor and Linder, “I have decided to withdraw my exhibition in solidarity with Liz’s and Bob’s departure. 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.”

Of the circumstances that led him to choose to cancel his show as well, Wurtz told ARTnews, “What a sad situation and what a disappointment.”

In the wake of the artists’ announcements, Jock Reynolds, 500 Capp Street’s board chair, told ARTnews that he understands there is a certain “loyalty between curators and artists” and that he hopes “there will be a lot of lively conversation between people” as a result of Linder’s departure. He also said the board has remained committed to keeping shows curated by Linder open as planned. “This is work I deeply respect and I think it’s very important for people to go see the exhibition, whether they’re supportive of what’s been done or not,” Reynolds said. 

San Francisco’s arts community has been weighing in on the changes at 500 Capp Street. In an email sent last night to the board and copied to colleagues and peers, Micki Meng, founder of the San Francisco-based enterprise &Art&, wrote, “The manner in which head curator Bob Linder was dismissed comes as a shock and blow to all of our spirits,” later adding, “To summon the ghost of an artist as a justification for dismissal is offensive.”

Meng suggested the layoff of Linder is symptomatic of other systemic issues in the Bay Area art scene. “It feels like the bottom fell out from under us in a time when we are witnessing mass evictions, closures, and friends leaving us everyday,” she wrote. Her communique noted “how important the programming at 500 Capp Street is to our art community, exactly the way it is now—as an in-depth look and fresh-lensed continuous recycling of appreciation for Ireland’s practice through rigorous conversation with a cast of some of the most interesting contemporary artists and thinkers working today.”

Meng called on the board of 500 Capp Street “to publicly face and listen to our community, but to be with us as long-time committed supporters of the arts to help problem-solve the issues artists and art workers are facing in a city of scarcity.”

Update Friday July 5, 8:30 p.m.: This story was updated to to reflect the addition of B. Wurtz’s call to cancel his exhibition.

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