In case you missed the news, here’s a roundup of headlines from the art world in the last two weeks.
TEXT: CoBo News
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
There were plenty of hellos and goodbyes said in the art world recently.
After nearly two decades in the role, Neal Benezra is stepping down as director of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The news was announced by the museum on 9 February, which stated that Benezra will “assist the museum with its succession plan and international search for a new director”. Benezra’s departure came at a rather rocky time for the institution, as it weathers through financial fallout as a result of the pandemic, and a recent controversy around the resignation of the SFMOMA’s former curator of painting and sculpture, Gary Garrels, who made a comment at a meeting that was considered racist.
Sarah Meister, who has been serving as the curator of photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art since 2009, has been appointed Executive Director of the Aperture Foundation, a New York-based non-profit organisation and publisher that supports and promotes the art of photography. She will assume her position in May, succeeding Chris Boot, who is returning to his native London after leading Aperture for a decade.
The Halle für Kunst Steiermark, a new contemporary art institution in the city of Graz in Austria, is slated to open on 22 April. It will be led by former Künstlerhaus director Sandro Droschl, and Cathrin Mayer, who was a curator at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art.
Art Institutions on the Edge
Art institutions across the globe are suffering the repercussions of prolonged quarantine and lockdown periods, and a lack of governmental support has provoked some to resort to further industrial actions.
Facing a potential shortfall of $150 million because of the pandemic,New York Times reported over the weekend that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has begun conversations with auction houses and its curators about potentially selling some of its artworks to help support maintenance of its collection. The consideration takes advantage of recently relaxed guidelines by the Association of Art Museum Directors that govern how proceeds from sales of works in a collection can be directed. The Met’s move towards deaccessioning was immediately faced with resistance, with former director Thomas P. Campbell comparing it to ‘crack cocaine to the addict – a rapid hit, that becomes a dependency.’
Over in Europe, the mayor of Perpignan in southern France decided that the city’s museums have had enough of COVID-19. The French news outlet Le Monde reported on 9 February that Louis Aliot has taken matters in his own hands and announced the re-opening of four museums across Perpignan, effectively defying countrywide government restrictions to fight the ongoing pandemic. The four museums are Hyacinthe Rigaud, the Casa Pairal, the Museum of Coins and Medals Joseph Puig and the Natural History Museum. “There is a virus, we have it for a long time, one must live with it,” said Aliot.
The Art Newspaper reported on 8 February that Advancing Women Artists, a US-based non-profit that identifies and restores artworks exclusively by female artists in Tuscany, will suspend its conservation projects due to lack of funds. Established by the late American author and journalist Jane Fortune in 2009, the organisation has 70 works of art to date spanning from the 16th to 20th century, mostly retrieved from state museum collections.
On 4 February, the German culture ministry held a press conference at the currently closed Martin-Gropius-Bau to announce a €1 billion aid to boost its ailing cultural industry, which has been hit hard by an ongoing lockdown since last autumn. This marks the second injection of money into the country’s art and culture scene, delivered as part of the German government’s “Neustart Kultur” programme, which was launched last July aimed at “offering a beacon of hope and encouragement to a cultural scene that has suffered mortal wounds.” The initial move saw €1 billion dispersed across 60 programmes in cinemas, museums, theatres, and other creative venues and disciplines.
Goldsmiths in London, one of the UK’s most prominent art institutions, is in deep waters after lecturers have decided to take the Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) in protest of an impending restructure that would lead to redundancies. The Art Newspaper reported on 29 January that teaching staff are refusing to teach face-to-face or assess students’ grades. Last year, college management recruited KPMG to help resolve a financial deficit totalling more than £8 million, which according to a statement released last October by the university’s staff union Goldsmiths University and College Union was “largely a result of excessive capital expenditure (estates and IT) 2015–18, and an increase in staff costs”.
South African artists have started a petition calling for the removal of arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa, after he posted a Tweet (now removed) saying that the country’s devastated performing arts scene is “alive and well”. The Tweet provoked an outcry among the country’s arts and culture circle, calling the minister’s response a reflection of “an ivory tower position of privilege that is completely out of touch with reality.” The petition—which was launched on 19 January, along with the hashtag #NathiMustGO—has amassed thousands of signatures since and is supported by the likes of dancers and choreographers Gregory Maqoma and Liam Anthony, theatre performer and arts activist Faniswa Yisa and playwright Mike van Graan.
It’s Time to Face the New Normal Head On
Despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, some public institutions take advantage of the quieter period for a chance to revamp business, some seeking support from other sectors in hopes of keeping business afloat.
Uniqlo has announced on 28 January a four-year partnership with Musée du Louvre, a move that will see the Japanese fast-fashion powerhouse produce clothing lines for the museum, which will be sold in stores globally and on the museum’s newly launched online store. The line features t-shirts and sweatshirts designed by Peter Saville, in which he includes the “hidden logic in art”, such as inventory numbers assigned to artworks in the Louvre’s collection, or the “golden ratio”, a mathematical principle often classically reference in artwork compositions. He also created designs based on the museum’s most iconic works, such as da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Hellenistic sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace. The partnership also includes Uniqlo’s sponsorship of the Louvre’s Free Saturday Nights programme, initiated back in 2019, where the museum extends its opening hours on the first Saturday of each month from 6pm to 9:45pm. The programme will resume once museums reopen in the French capital.
Reported on ARTnews on 5 February, the Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan will be closed from 1 March for a major refurbishment project that will last several years. The institution anticipates reopening between April 2023 and March 2024, details of the refurbishment project have yet to be announced.
According to a letter sent out to exhibitors on 2 February from Director Asia of Art Basel Adeline Ooi, Art Basel Hong Kong will be providing an alternative exhibiting option to dealers unable to physically attend the show in May. The fair organisers provide exhibitors with the option to amend their proposal to present a small curated exhibition within a standalone booth, measuring either 15 by 20 square metres or 20 by 25 square metres, staffed by assistants appointed by Art Basel, with the smaller booth priced at a flat rate of US$9,500 and the larger option at US$11,500. However, this alternative option requires exhibitors to delegate a gallery sales representative to remain on-call at all times throughout the opening hours of the show.
Franklin Sirmans, Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), made an announcement on 6 February during a virtual edition of its annual benefit, that the museum has renamed the Fund for African American Art to the Fund for Black Art to better represent the art and the diaspora that they represent, which includes artworks by Kwame Brathwaite, Gordon Parks and Tunji Adeniyi-Jones. “While the fund’s definition of African American was used expansively in the past, this change acknowledges that we are committed to Black art and the Black diaspora on a global level, and that the fund is an infinite and not a finite project,” Sirmans told The Art Newspaper.