Weekend

Required Reading

This week, museums have to change, academic publishers under siege, ignoring tear gas at the Warhol show, Meghan McCain and Eli Valley, and more.

An installation on the west coast of Scotland, “Lines (57° 59 ́N, 7° 16 ́W)” was created by Finnish artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho for Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre. It uses sensors and LED lights to show where the water will rise to during storm surges if climate change continues to raise the Earth’s temperatures. More images at Colossal (via Colossal)

Richard Branson, founder of the British media and technology conglomerate Virgin Group, suspended talks with the Saudi fund over potential investments in his space-travel businesses. Executives from the private-equity firm Blackstone Group, the ride-sharing service Uber and Goldman Sachs canceled plans to attend a major investment conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

Will institutions founded on 19th-century values become reliquaries for the dead and a painful reminder of the past? Or will they become a testament to a history that is organic, inclusive, alive, and whole for all people and all times?

As museum directors, staff, and governing bodies wrestle with these questions, moral conflicts have emerged. The result has been a crisis of conscience and confidence within museums that has yielded high turnover rates at all levels of organizations, especially at the top. In 2017 and 2018 alone, a surprising number of institutional leaders in the US and Europe abruptly departed. Some directors were summarily and unceremoniously dismissed, others the subject of formal investigations. Still, others found themselves managing impossible situations in which they were caught between donors protecting the status quo and younger staff members demanding swift accountability to audiences seeking transparency and true structural change.

With the content of papers secured for free, the publisher needs only find a market for its journal. Until this century, university libraries were not very price sensitive. Since academic careers depend on publication, the demand for scientific publications is unbounded except by the price that scholarly libraries can be forced to pay. Scientific publishers routinely report profit margins approaching 40% on their operations, at a time when the rest of the publishing industry is in an existential crisis.

The Dutch giant Elsevier, which claims to publish one way or another 25% of the scientific papers produced in the world, made profits of more than £900m last year, while UK universities alone spent more than £210m in 2016 to enable researchers to access their own publicly funded research; both figures seem to rise inexorably despite increasingly desperate efforts to change them.

  • It takes a special kind of oblivious privilege to write about the Warhol exhibition at the Whitney Museum and not mention the Safariland/Kanders controversy and protests and their connection to refugees at the border, but Paul Keegan manages it, even though the review is interesting if you can ignore (like he actively did) that major blindspot:

The loss of visual power is partly to do with film. After the early durational experiments of the 1960s, Sleep and Empire, which are so ravishing to watch, the low-end availability of sound recording became of increasing interest to Warhol. His camera stops looking and starts listening. He began to focus more on the grain of the voice than the grain of the face. This is perhaps the reason for his withdrawal from image-making. His observational preoccupations increasingly took the form of attention to voice and its properties – just as the tape-recorder comes to play a major role – and the written word as a printed voice. The lack of interest in how things look became integral to Warhol’s visual practice, sometimes with striking results.

  • This week, Meghan McCain, whose father famously joked about bombing Iran, bizarrely accused Jewish American cartoonist (and artistic legend) Eli Valley of anti-semitism. Mediaite reported it, and included Valley’s response:

Valley responded with more cartoons surrounding Omar which he has called Omartoons, which mock the Republican Party for crying about anti-Semitism on the left when there are similar characters on the right. His original cartoon of McCain featured her wearing a cross while surrounding herself with Jewish artifacts and crying about anti-Semitism.

New York was riveted for weeks by a debate over whether Amazonshould receive $3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives in return for setting up a headquarters in Queens and creating 25,000 jobs. But with far less public attention, the city government has for more than a decade been funneling even more aid to Hudson Yards, a 28-acre complex of gleaming office buildings and luxury residential towers that is one of the nation’s biggest real estate projects in recent years.

In all, the tax breaks and other government assistance for Hudson Yards have reached nearly $6 billion, according to public records and a recent analysis by the New School.

The city spent about $2.4 billion to extend the No. 7 subway line to Hudson Yards and set aside $1.2 billion for about four acres of parks and open spaces called Hudson Park and Boulevard. The City Council stepped up to pay $359 million in interest payments on bonds when revenue from the development, which was supposed to cover the tab, fell short of projections.

The inclusion of a version of a Getty Images photo of a bearded, flannel-wearing man, tinted with a blue and orange hue, prompted one reader to write to the magazine: “Your lack of basic journalistic ethics in both the manner in which you ‘reported’ this uncredited nonsense, and the slanderous, unnecessary use of my picture without permission demands a response, and I am, of course, pursuing legal action.”

But it wasn’t actually him.

  • Now two maps about women that may surprise you:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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