Huma Bhabha Takes an Ax to Her Exhibit at the Met

“I like texture,” she said, with the ax resting on the floor behind her. “I work with my hands, and I like to feel it.”


The Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Ms. Bhabha’s work will be installed this spring. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

The Met installation, “We Come In Peace,” will be on view April 17 through Oct. 28. The Cantor Roof Garden installation series began in 1987 and it averages some 500,000 viewers each season. It assures the featured artist a measure of fame.

Ms. Bhabha called it “huge exposure and a huge opportunity.” She added, “It’s obviously very exciting to be chosen for that, with the nature of my work.”

Though some details are traditionally kept under wraps, Ms. Bhabha said that it will comprise two large figures — one of which incorporates cork — and that she was treating the roof as “a landing pad where these figures have arrived.”

Shanay Jhaveri, the Met curator overseeing the installation, noted that the roof was “an iconic space, but challenging.” He said that Ms. Bhabha had conceived a “dramatic mise-en-scène” with a humanistic theme: “How we approach the Other.”

Ms. Bhabha generally depicts the human figure — or at least human-ish.

“There’s something haunted in them,” said Eva Respini, the chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston and a fan of Ms. Bhabha’s work.

In Ms. Bhabha’s studio, the artist was surrounded by several sculptures that were destined for a gallery show in Berlin. One was partly made of Styrofoam and some were drawn on with an oil stick in various shades, too. They formed a mysterious group indeed.


Ms. Bhabhna’s yard, which has her sculpture “Constantium,” 2014, on view. Credit Lauren Lancaster for The New York Times

“I’m interested in a certain kind of visceral aspect, a kind of rawness in the work, which I like very much,” Ms. Bhabha said. “It comes naturally to me.”

After the Met, more shows are lined up. In September, Texas’s Contemporary Austin mounts a solo exhibition of her work. In October, one of her sculptures will be featured in the 57th Carnegie International, an exhibition organized by Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art. And the largest show to date of her works comes in March 2019, at the ICA Boston.

“She’s always been an artists’ artist,” said the ICA’s Ms. Respini, who is organizing that museum’s show. “But recently she has come into her own in an amazing way, and is hitting her stride.”

Ms. Respini added, “She has a unique visual language that is so singular. And she has a complete mastery of her materials that comes through time and practice, not only cork but Styrofoam and burned wood too. They are all unwieldy, but she’s able to wrangle them.”

Ms. Bhabha grew up in Karachi, and she has been living in the United States for almost 30 years. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design for her undergraduate degree and then got an MFA from Columbia. As she developed her art, she found that she admired artists with wide-ranging sensibilities and a protean quality, especially Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, Alberto Giacometti and Robert Rauschenberg.

Like a lot of sculptors, Ms. Bhabha started as a painter, and she still works in a variety of media. Her primary American gallery, Salon 94 in New York City, has featured her colorful ink-and-pastel works on paper, and Ms. Respini particularly praised the photographs that Ms. Bhabha takes and then draws on.

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‘ISIS Is Coming!’ How a French Company Pushed the Limits in War-Torn Syria

But the money didn’t always assure the safety of Lafarge’s workers or its operations. Between 2012 and the end of 2014, at least a dozen workers were kidnapped, according to testimony and witness statements of former employees, company documents and the internal review. Employees faced gun-toting militants when they went to work. And the factory — one of the biggest foreign investments in Syria — was captured anyway. It has been shuttered ever since.

A panel of French judges appointed by the Paris High Court, which oversees criminal investigations, is now looking into whether Lafarge put workers at risk and violated international sanctions by paying the Islamic State and other armed groups to keep operating as war bore down. Six former top Lafarge officials, including two former chief executives, are being formally investigated under charges of financing terrorism.

The judges, who decide whether cases go to trial, are also examining a lawsuit by Sherpa, a French anti-corruption organization that pursues humanitarian abuses by corporations, on behalf of former employees alleging Lafarge was complicit in war crimes. The employees, in the lawsuit, claim that the company ignored the dangers they faced, and pressured them to keep working.

“Lafarge acted as if it was above the law,” said Marie-Laure Guislain, the head of litigation at Sherpa. “But it played a role in an armed conflict, as well as in the violation of human rights, and must be held accountable.”

The Sherpa lawsuit helped prompt the French investigation, as did reports on Lafarge’s activities by the French newspaper Le Monde.

All of the former Lafarge executives have denied the charges against them, which could be dropped if judges find the evidence insufficient. If prosecuted, the executives could face penalties of up to 10 years in jail and fines of 225,000 euros. Authorities will also determine whether the company itself can be held liable. The activity occurred before Lafarge merged with the Swiss cement giant Holcim in 2015.

The former chief executive Eric Olsen resigned last year after the internal inquiry, although Lafarge concluded that he was not responsible for, or aware of, the activity. In the United States, the company, now called LafargeHolcim after the merger, dropped plans to supply building materials for President Trump’s proposed wall on the border with Mexico amid criticism in France over the Syria affair.

LafargeHolcim, in a statement to The Times, insisted that the No. 1 priority of Lafarge executives was to guarantee employee safety, and pinned the decisions on local managers who “wrongly believed” they were acting in the interests of the company and its employees. The company acknowledged “unacceptable errors committed in Syria,” and said that it “deeply regrets what happened.”


Residents leaving Manbij, Syria, in a 2016 evacuation. The town, which is near the Lafarge cement plant, was chosen several years ago as a place to relocate some workers for safety and in order to keep it operating. Credit Rodi Said/Reuters

It also said that while the use of an intermediary was a “serious concern,” its internal review “could not establish with certainty the ultimate recipients of the funds.”

LafargeHolcim’s chief executive, Jan Jenisch, said the company is cooperating with French authorities. “I am the most interested person that truth comes out and we can close this chapter, which we are very sorry about,” he said during a presentation of the company’s results last week.

In its statement, LafargeHolcim added it had put in place extensive reviews and controls “to ensure that LafargeHolcim today is a different company with further enhanced compliance.”

Mr. Mohamad and the other workers, all of whom survived, are now trying to rebuild their lives. Many had to flee Syria, becoming refugees in Turkey and Europe. While some managed to get jobs, others struggled afterward.

For a while, Dr. Adham Basho, the Lafarge employee who warned Mr. Mohamad, lived with his wife, children and 18 other families in a Turkish refugee facility after leaving Syria. He has found only odd jobs to support his family. Hisham Haji Osman, an information technology specialist, made it to Germany and is still trying to land permanent work. Mr. Mohamad is living as a refugee in Turkey, unable to return home while war persists.

‘We Kept Going’

When Lafarge bought a dilapidated factory in northern Syria in 2007, one of the biggest advantages was a local partner with ties to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The partner, Firas Tlass, an influential tycoon, could navigate back channels in a country with murky rules and bureaucracy. He arranged an operating license and other permits for Lafarge.

Founded in 1833 as a family business in France, Lafarge had a history of landing big and complicated projects. In the mid-19th century, it won a contract to build the Suez Canal in Egypt. During World War II, it helped furnish cement for the construction of a massive coastal wall of bunkers for the Nazis, known as the Atlantic Wall, that stretched from Scandinavia to the Spanish border.


Militant Islamist fighters parading along the streets of Raqqa province in June 2014. After Raqqa fell to the Islamic State in 2013, fighting moved closer to the region in northern Syria where the cement plant is located. Credit Reuters

In Syria, Lafarge saw a new opening to the Middle East. After a three-year renovation of the €680 million plant, Lafarge Cement Syria opened in October 2010, employing hundreds of people and generating thousands of related jobs. Trucks and vans crisscrossed the desert, transporting employees, delivering Lafarge cement and bringing in fuel and raw materials from nearby quarries.

As operations ramped up, a wave of revolutionary fervor from the Arab Spring movement swept the region. Anti-government protests spread to Syria, and were brutally suppressed in March 2011 by government security forces. Soldiers from Syria’s army defected and, along with civilians who took up arms, formed rebel groups to battle the government, some of them loosely organized as the Free Syrian Army. The government responded by attacking rebel-held areas, in an increasingly complex and bloody conflict that continues to batter the country.

While the fighting took root in the south, the security around the Lafarge plant in the north slowly began to deteriorate. Free Syrian Army groups moved into the area, long controlled by Mr. Assad’s government, along with the militia of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD. By the end of 2011, the United Nations declared Syria in a state of civil war, and the European Union placed an embargo on arms and oil purchases in Syria.

After that, Total, the French oil giant, halted its Syrian operations. Other French multinationals followed, including Bel Group, the maker of Babybel cheese, and Air Liquide, France’s largest gas company.

Not Lafarge. Bruno Lafont, who was the Lafarge chief executive at the time, saw no reason to leave. Company security advisers assured bosses at headquarters in Paris that the plant was not in a combat zone and remained safe. “So we kept going,” Mr. Lafont told investigators, according to the court documents. “Lafarge has never run away.”

By summer 2012, the situation in Syria had grown increasingly uncertain, and Lafarge decided to move hundreds of foreign employees out of the country for their safety. Senior managers, including Bruno Pescheux, the chief executive of Lafarge Cement Syria at the time, relocated to Cairo to oversee operations remotely.

The Syrian employees kept working. Their job was to keep the cement flowing — and to make the factory appear occupied as a way of discouraging militants from raiding it.

Lafarge said it wanted to keep providing jobs for locals who eagerly wanted to work. The company relocated employees to Manbij, a town near the plant, and provided lodging for others inside the factory compound so they could keep working as road travel grew more risky, according to testimony by former executives and employees. When the civil war ended, “we’d at least have an operation that could furnish cement for the reconstruction of Syria,” Mr. Pescheux told French investigators.


Marie-Laure Guislain, head of litigation at Sherpa, the French anti-corruption organization that has sued Lafarge on behalf of employees who say they were pressured to continue working in a war zone. Credit Roberto Frankenberg for The New York Times

Workers felt fortunate to be employed by a major French multinational that offered good salaries to support their families in a region with few opportunities. Yet as the situation grew starker, Lafarge’s local managers, the employees said in interviews, witness accounts and testimony, turned up the pressure, threatening to dismiss or cut the pay of those who balked at the worsening safety environment.

“Before the war, the management practices were very good,” said Jarir Yahyaalmullaali, a former warehouse keeper. But later, he added, “they would force you to go to work and threaten to dismiss you even if there were problems and the roads were dangerous.”

After their foreign colleagues were evacuated, the Syrian employees discussed forming a union or striking to protest deteriorating work conditions. They were especially upset about being ferried in Lafarge-contracted vans through checkpoints held by a rotating cast of armed militants, the employees said in interviews, testimony and accounts submitted to the court.

“Imagine the journey,” said Nidal Wahbi, a former Lafarge human resources manager in Syria who is part of the lawsuit. “You could be stopped at any time, and either they let you go, or they could take you from the car for questioning.” When sniper bullets grazed his vehicle one morning, “I realized for the first time how unsafe it was,” he said. “But the next day, you had to go through the same road, because Lafarge would ask why you didn’t go to work.”

A Growing Threat

When the fighting got too close, the payments to ISIS started to flow.

In mid-2012, local Lafarge executives provided the Syrian partner with a monthly budget of around $100,000. They gave him instructions to act as an intermediary with local groups to ensure safe passage around the factory, Mr. Pescheux told investigators.

The partner, Mr. Tlass, according to the law firm’s review, steered large sums to the Free Syrian Army, which occupied Manbij, where Lafarge had relocated employees. More money flowed to the Kurds, who had worked with the Free Syrian Army and promised military-style protection for the factory, which they considered to be in their territory.

The payoffs didn’t guarantee safety. In autumn, the Kurds kidnapped nine Lafarge employees and transferred them to local militias. Lafarge’s local managers reported the kidnappings to Paris and spent around €200,000 to secure their release, according to the internal inquiry and testimony of former executives.

The troubles worsened in 2013, when the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, and other Islamic groups seized Raqqa, a strategic city about 90 kilometers south of the factory. In the ensuing months, a schism within Al Qaeda split the Nusra Front from the Islamic State group, which took control of Raqqa. ISIS began a slow but steady push toward the region around the Lafarge plant.

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A Destination Restaurant in Remote Sweden Gets a Pop-Up Pairing


If you’ve heard of Are, Sweden, you’re either a winter sports fan or a passionate foodie. That’s because this town, about 400 miles north of Stockholm, is the country’s premier ski destination, but also the gateway to Faviken, the widely celebrated restaurant from the chef Magnus Nilsson.

Tucked away in a family hunting lodge far from town, Faviken has always benefited from its remote, near-Narnian setting. But now Mr. Nilsson has opened a trio of Are (pronounced OOR-eh) establishments, intended to make his relentlessly local ethos more accessible. The restaurant Uvisan, the cocktail bar Svartklubb and the cafe and bakery Krus all occupy the same space; a rotating placard is the only outward sign of their daily transformation.

“We had so many guests who wanted to stay a second night in Are and asked for recommendations,” Mr. Nilsson said. Though labeled pop-ups, both bar and bakery are permanent, while the dinner concept changes seasonally. The pop-ups give Faviken’s pool of talented sous chefs the chance “to take more responsibility, develop and be creative,” Mr. Nilsson said. (Last summer it was Hoon’s Chinese, with the Singaporean chef Ethel Hoon running the kitchen. The current concept will rotate out again in May or June, depending on when they feel it’s time for a new one.)

At Uvisan in late December, as at Faviken, the meal started with a quick succession of single-bite wonders. Delicate shiso leaves were glazed with a crystalline layer of tempura, while a tiny pot of creamy mushroom chawanmushi (egg custard) was sophisticated in its simplicity, like an adult memory of a beloved childhood dish. Faviken favorites made appearances, as well, including an appetizer of king crab (improbably but satisfyingly daubed with a roasted hazelnut sauce reminiscent of savory Nutella) and a tiny dish of gyoza filled with succulent pieces of dairy cow.

The dining room at Uvisan.CreditErik Olsson

Lastly, a pot of mirin- and soy-based broth was set bubbling over a flame, to which diners added veggies, mushrooms and paper-thin slices of moose shoulder dipped in raw egg yolk and aged soy. Handmade udon were then swished around the pot to extract flavor, and each diner was handed a microplane and invited to grate the fragrant zest of a yuzu onto the chewy noodles.

This take on Japanese home cooking is the work of Uvis Janicenko, a Latvian chef who spent two years in Japan before joining the Faviken team. (“Uvisan” is a composite of his first name and the Japanese honorific “san.”) “I used some of the classic Japanese dishes but adapted the flavor [to] local ingredients,” he said. “Japanese cuisine is very pure and clean in flavors that are close to me, so it comes naturally.” All the same, Mr. Nilsson’s hallmarks abound: Beds of forest moss, modest wooden spoons, and whimsical dishware suggest a woodsy fairy tale. Sweet flavors slip easily into the savory realm, savory into the sweet.

After two nightly seatings, the space transforms into Svartklubb, serving drinks like gin with “forest tonic” and fermented milk known as fjallfil, chilled into a slushy and laced with a liqueur of dill and fennel.

Before first light (around 9:30 a.m. in December), cocktail bar becomes bakery, serving traditional Swedish saffron buns, floury sourdough loaves, thumbprint cookies, and crisp Pepparkaka gingerbread biscuits. The menu at Krus is like an à la carte version of Faviken’s indulgent breakfast, including marbled charcuterie from Mr. Nilsson’s butcher shop in the nearby town of Undersaker, soft-boiled eggs with chilled cod roe, and delicate, just-made yogurt.

Up here this time of year, when the sun’s late rise is followed closely by an early but glorious sunset, it’s enough to get you out of bed in the morning.

Uvisan, Torggränd 2B. A set menu for two, without drinks or tip, is 1,300 Swedish kroner, about $160.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page TR10 of the New York edition with the headline: By Day, a Bakery. By Night, Japanese Delight.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


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A Childhood Hobby Matures Into a World-Class Collection

In the late 19th century, Mr. Morgan began his collection of early printed books and illuminated manuscripts, as well as autograph manuscripts (the original texts, handwritten by their authors) by the novelists Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, among others. He hired the architect Charles McKim to design an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo for this collection, adjacent to his residence on Madison Avenue and 36th Street. His son, J.P. Morgan Jr., opened the collection to scholars and the public in 1924, 11 years after his father’s death.


A letter from Emily Dickinson to Adelaide Hills, spring 1871. Credit Collection of Pedro Corra do Lago

In a recent interview in an ornate 19th-century parlor at the Morgan, Mr. Corrêa do Lago reminisced about his first visit to New York, and to the Morgan, when he was about 17.

“I was fascinated by the museum,” he said. “It was the top of Everest for me, with its fantastic music manuscripts and authors’ letters.”

As the son of a Brazilian diplomat, Mr. Corrêa do Lago, who turns 60 on March 15, lived all over the world and became fluent in five languages. Now a publisher, author and art historian based in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, he is married to Maria Beatriz Fonseca, a screenwriter who has written four books with him.

He said he “never had Morgan’s means” but, like Pierpont Morgan, had been “very ambitious” in the scope of his collecting.

“I make money to spend on my collection,” said Mr. Corrêa do Lago, who buys autograph materials from large auction houses like Bonham’s, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, as well as through dealers and private sales. “I’ve worked a lot more than I would have, to be able to support and pay for this passion. I’m basically lazy, but I knew I had auction bills to pay. Auctions never happen when your pockets are full.”


A letter from Mozart to his father, Leopold, dated Feb. 7, 1778. Credit Collection of Pedro Corrêa do Lago

He is a member of the International Association of Bibliophiles, a group of book and manuscript collectors through which he met William Griswold, a former director of the Morgan who is now the director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Conversations between them and with the Morgan’s current leadership, including its director, Colin Bailey, led to the exhibition that will open in June.

Mr. Corrêa do Lago, who is fond of saying, “Every signature is an autograph but not every autograph is a signature,” had some difficulty culling his collection of 100,000 autographs, dating from 1140 to 2017, for the exhibition. The 140 items that will be shown at the Morgan were selected in partnership with several of the museum’s curators, including, most recently, Christine Nelson, a curator of literary and historical manuscripts.

“There are many nods” in his choices to authors featured in the Morgan’s collection and in previous and future exhibitions, he said, including Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Ernest Hemingway, as well as more crowd-pleasing items like a 1965 photo of the Beatles signed by the quartet.

Among Ms. Nelson’s favorite pieces in the exhibit is an 1871 letter the poet Emily Dickinson wrote to her friend Adelaide Hills, who had a daughter named Emily. The letter reads: “To be remembered is next to being loved, and to be loved is heaven, and is this quite earth? I have never found it so.”

Ms. Nelson said: “It’s so moving to see in Dickinson’s own hand what she wrote to a friend in a particular moment. We think of her as a recluse, but she was, in fact, deeply connected — through correspondence, through handwriting. My work is all about memory and collecting; these everyday traces of people’s lives allow us to remember them.”


An illustrated letter from Henri Matisse to the art publisher Albert Skira, Feb. 16, 1949. Credit 2018 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Collection of Pedro Corra do Lago

The exhibit was designed by Daniela Thomas, a Brazilian theater set and museum show designer who was a director of the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio. To help visitors focus, each document will be displayed unframed, enclosed in a gray free-standing case with a slanted top like a writing desk; caption information will be easily readable on a panel attached above each case.

The cases will be divided into six sections, devoted to art, history, literature, science, music and entertainment. The oldest piece will be a vellum bull dating to 1153 and signed by four popes; the newest will be a 2006 thumbprint signature of the physicist Stephen Hawking.

Mr. Corrêa do Lago said he hoped his collection would appeal to anyone with “an open spirit.”

“You don’t have to be a scholar to like the exhibition,” he said. “Almost every item I’ve chosen for it is a conversation piece.”

Mr. Corrêa do Lago, who declined to estimate the value of his entire collection, said that some individual items were worth six figures.

As for the future, he predicted that collecting autographs of individuals well known today would be increasingly difficult.

Acknowledging that he writes thank-you notes perhaps twice a year, he said: “Autographs of our contemporaries will be a lot rarer. Letters by Steve Jobs are extremely valuable because there are very few of them; they’re more valuable than Lincoln’s.”

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Virtual Reality Lets Rare Works of Art Take a Field Trip

Although the couple has been sharing their art collection for decades through exhibitions, museum loans and other means, this is the first time they don’t have to worry about travel wear and tear.

“That’s the beauty of this type of museum,” Mr. Kremer said. “You never have to think about security, insurance or transport fees or any of that. No plumbing or building codes.”

The Kremers, who live in Dubai and have homes in Dallas and Amsterdam, have been collecting art since 1994, when Mr. Kremer bought a drawing by Govert Flinck, one of Rembrandt’s most successful pupils, from the Amsterdam gallery Salomon Lilian.


Matthias Stom’s “Christ Chasing the Moneychangers From Temple,” 1630-1633, as seen in virtual reality. Credit The Kremer Collection

His wife did not like his initial purchase, but together they began to collect under the guidance of one of the Netherlands’ leading old master dealers, Robert Noortman, and accumulated one of the world’s most respected troves of Dutch and Flemish masters in private hands. Their collection now includes paintings by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Lievens, along with Impressionist works.

The idea for a virtual-reality museum came from their son Joël, who had worked in the United States for Google. Joël eventually became the director of the museum and spearheaded the project.

Each painting in the collection was photographed about 3,000 times and then merged into a 3-D image using photogrammetry, or measurements of surface points. Visitors to the museum can therefore look not only at the front of a picture, but also walk around and see labels and other markings on the back.

Glitches still need to be worked out. The image resolution still appears to be inadequate to create a sufficiently high-resolution reproduction. And the subject matter doesn’t help: 17th-century Dutch painting, especially the domestic genre scenes favored by the Kremers, was very detail-oriented; beauty can be found in the flicker of light on a woman’s silk gown, or light glancing off a pearl, or the exquisitely meticulous fringe on a tablecloth.

Joël Kremer acknowledged that the pixelation isn’t adequate right now, but said the issue was being worked on and that it seemed likely that this would be fixed as the technology inevitably improved.

The Kremers have made what they will only describe as “a significant investment” of money to develop the museum. George Kremer is quick to note, however, that, “Building this is a fraction of what a physical building would cost.” To achieve the same ethereal setting, he added, “You’d then have to shoot it into space, and that would be a costly affair.”

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Adoption Across Racial and Ethnic Lines: ‘These Relationships Are Always Going to Be in Flux’

The stories resonated with many of our viewers, and comments flooded in. Some shared their own opinions and stories about being adopted across racial or ethnic lines.

One viewer implored more minorities to adopt.

“For those of you that have a problem with white adopting across racial lines, please step up. We desperately need black foster parents. And this isn’t ‘nonsense’ when children are growing up in orphanages and foster homes. It’s easy to criticize from the sidelines. It’s much harder to get in the fight.”

—Shannan Burke

A commenter talked about her commitment to helping her soon-to-be-adopted daughter from India learn about her culture.

“I am leaving in a few weeks to pick up our daughter from India. It’s so important to us to be open and talk about her Indian life. I know this is going to be a struggle, but I will make sure to talk about it.”

—Annie DeWolf

Others stressed the importance of loving and supporting adopted children.

“We are a white couple with two Guatemalan children. Love, acceptance and pushing to strive have been consistent for us. We talk about race and the differences, not trying to hide anything. Our oldest child is in denial. Our youngest is very aware and trying to discover her identity.”

—Brian Glassman

“I am adopted from Peru and had parents who were supportive and went through so rough times with me. As an adult and a mom now, I embrace the beauty of our family diversity and how unique and special our family is. My parents have always been so supportive and proactive about keeping us within both cultures and I love them for that.”

—Marisa Morrill

A parent of adoptees said their family talks openly about racism.

“My children are Indonesian and we talk openly about racial slurs particularly in the America of today. We also try to expose them to Indonesian issues and culture. It is hard, as we can’t afford to visit. As they get older people never take us as a family and stare at us, but we always talk about it.”

—Carol A. Hessler

One mother explained how books by transracial adoptees helped her.

“Before I adopted 15 years ago, I was a voracious reader of stories written by transracial adoptees. The parents so often made so many mistakes. I want to thank all of those authors. Their experiences and their willingness to share made me so aware and I hope, in turn, has made me a better mother.”

—Leslie Rae

The Reader Center is one way we in the newsroom are trying to connect with you, by highlighting your perspectives and experiences and offering insight into how we work.

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Colombia’s Museum of Modern Art Celebrates Its 40th Year

The museum’s location in Medellín also makes it an extraordinary landmark: in the 1980s and 1990s, the city was one of the most violent in the world. It was from here that Pablo Escobar ruled his cocaine empire and where he was killed by Colombian police in 1993. According to Human Rights Watch, more than seven million Colombians were displaced, disappeared or murdered during the 52 years of fighting. The Museum of Modern Art was founded by artists in 1978 and opened its doors to the public in 1980.


The exterior plaza at the Museum of Modern Art Medellin. Credit Yohan Lopez/MAMM

“People didn’t go out then,” said the museum’s director María Mercedes González. “Life took place indoors. But the artists, this museum, as well as many other social and cultural institutions persisted. There was a very powerful social will, a barrier of resistance, and, despite war and economic crisis, this city was resilient.”

Encouraged by growing popularity — it hosted the First Latin American Colloquium of Non-Object and Urban Art in 1981 — the museum by the 2000s was actually expanding. In 2006, city leaders approved the museum’s relocation to the Talleres Robledo building, in the Ciudad del Rio area. In 2010, the museum called for architectural proposals to increase its exhibition space. Five years later, it opened new galleries, a theater, book and gift stores and a cafe.


Débora Arango, “Plebiscito,” 1958. Credit Débora Arango, via MAMM

Today, the museum is a cavernous and commanding urban nucleus that, according to Ms. González, aims to draw as many local visitors as it does tourists from abroad. The museum’s steps descend onto a plaza facing high-rise apartment complexes inching up Medellín’s eastern hills and serves as a popular meeting venue for nearby residents.

“Just a few years ago, this kind of gathering would have been unthinkable,” said the museum’s photographer, Juan Felipe Barreiro.


The fourth floor terrace of the Museum of Modern Art Medellin. Credit Yohan Lopez/MAMM

Exhibits avoid any thematic constant, such as the war years. One recent show, “Desire: An Exhibition about Sex, Love, and Lust,” included several striking Arango depictions of sensual yet pensive women adjacent to the English artist Celia Hempton’s interpretations of anonymous sexual pleasure in the digital age.

“We wanted to do something playful, something celebratory,” said the chief curator Emiliano Valdés. He added that inspiration for the show grew partly out of protest against socially conservative Colombian lawmakers, as well as a reflection on the global transgender rights movement.


Débora Arango, “La República,” c. 1957. Credit Débora Arango

Another temporary exhibit, the short film “Black Box” by Elkin Calderón Guevara and Diego Piñeros García features the antiquated DC-3 airliner that continues to operate in Colombia’s remote Orinoco and Amazon regions. Except for the plaintive engine hum as the plane glides over uninterrupted jungle, a ghostly silence pervades the presentation. An explanatory pamphlet notes that the planes were once in Colombia’s military service “and were even used for illicit transport. They are machines that tell the unspeakable, that moment between life and death when time is infinite and everything is silent.”

In 2017, the museum’s visitors numbered 110,000, a growth of six percent from the previous year. On March 21, it will inaugurate the exhibition “Art in Antioquia and the Seventies,” which reflects on the museum’s first exhibition in 1978.

“One of the museum’s objectives,” said Ms. González, is “to present a temporary exhibitions program dedicated to contemporary art and its intersection with modern movements, and to take on issues that are culturally, socially, politically and aesthetically relevant to the local context,” Ms. González said.

“This all goes beyond an investment in physical space,” she continued, with reference to the museum’s gradual expansion. “It’s mainly a commitment to the arts, artists, audiences so that they can enjoy exhibitions and fresh work, as well as better access to the permanent collection.”

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11 of Our Best Weekend Reads



Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times

A ‘Bright Light,’ Dimmed in the Shadows of Homelessness

Nakesha Williams resisted help from social workers, friends and acquaintances, some who only knew her as a homeless woman, and others who knew of her past. Over more than a year, our reporter delved into Nakesha’s life, trying to understand the events and forces that put her and so many of the city’s homeless on the street. New York



Credit Dan Saltzstein/The New York Times

On a Disney Cruise, It’s a Stressful World (After All)

Can a cruise skeptic enjoy four days on the high seas with his family, Mickey and a bunch of princesses? Travel



Credit Mike Cohen for The New York Times

Merck C.E.O. Ken Frazier on Death Row Cases and the Corporate Soul

Corner Office, a regular interview with leading chief executives, returns. In the first installment, Merck’s C.E.O., Ken Frazier, talks about race, justice and his break with President Trump. Business



Credit Eye of Science/Science Source

How One Child’s Sickle Cell Mutation Helped Protect the World From Malaria

The genetic mutation arose 7,300 years ago in just one person in West Africa, scientists reported this week. Its advantage: a shield against rampant malaria. Science



Credit Corey Olsen

The New Vanguard

For Women’s History Month, our critics chose 15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century. Books



Credit Pool photo by Kim Hong-Ji

The Man Bringing Trump and Kim Jong-un Together

Once accused of “appeasement” by President Trump, President Moon Jae-in’s persistence in bringing together North Korea and the United States suddenly appears to be paying off. International



Credit Colin Hackley/Reuters

How the Parkland Students Got So Good at Social Media

The activist students of Stoneman Douglas, where 17 people were killed last month, are social media naturals. But it’s not entirely true that they’ve been tweeting all their lives. National

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