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Week in Review: Senior SFMOMA Curator Resigns; Smithsonian Workers Cite Racism at National Museum of African Art

Also, the French government drafted a law requiring that several high-profile objects be restituted to Benin and Senegal within a year, and more.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC (photo by Lynn Allen via Flickr)

Week in Review is a weekly collection of news, developments, and stirrings in the art world. Subscribe to receive these posts as a weekly newsletter.

Former and current staffers of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts launched a petition denouncing the presence of armed guards in the galleries and alleging the museum has mishandled complaints of racial and sexual harassment.

A letter penned by a group of former staff and board members of the Smithsonian Institution denounces issues of racial discrimination at its National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) in Washington, DC. “In 2020, there are only five full-time Black employees on a staff of over 40. There are no Black curators in a museum solely dedicated to the arts and culture of Africa,” the letter reads.

Gary Garrels, a senior curator at SFMOMA, stepped down after a petition launched calling for his resignation, and less than a week after a staff meeting in which he stood behind controversial comments about collecting art by white men.

A group of former SFMOMA workers, known as xSFMOMA, penned a letter demanding a “radical reexamination” of the museum’s board. The group says the 75 museum trustees are responsible for the “ongoing violent treatment of BIPOC, disabled, queer and trans employees and the continued development of a white supremacist exhibition and collecting program.”

The Metropolitan Museum lobby (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Confirming unofficial reports from late June, the Metropolitan Museum has announced that its Fifth Avenue location will reopen on August 29. Members will have early access to the museum on August 27 and 28.

The Shed, a multidisciplinary arts center in NYC, laid off 28 full-time workers. The institution received a Paycheck Protection Program loan in the range of $2-5 million.

A protest in 2014 (via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

The Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design, which counts Pratt and RISD among its members, signed on to an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit against ICE. The Trump administration has since rescinded the ICE regulation, which would have revoked visas for international students whose schools were not returning to in-person schooling.

Washington, DC’s NFL team, formerly known as the “Redskins,” will change its name and logo after decades of Indigenous activism.

Marc Quinn’s sculpture of activist Jen Reid on the plinth where a bronze of Edward Colston used to stand (photo by Sam Saunders via Flickr)

Artist Marc Quinn covertly installed a sculpture of activist Jen Reid in place of a bronze of Edward Colston toppled by protesters in Bristol last month. The statue was removed by city authorities the following day.

After Mayor Levar Stoney expedited the removal of seven Confederate statues in Richmond, Judge Bradley Cavedo approved a temporary injunction blocking the mayor’s order. Since then, a 1977 op-ed by Cavedo resurfaced. In it, he criticized desegregation busing, welfare measures, and a proposal for instant voter registration.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (Brian Suda/Flickr) 

Check out the Los Angeles museums, galleries, art studios, and more that received PPP loans.

Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia will be converted into a mosque after 85 years as a museum.

Transactions

Herbert George Ponting, “The Ramparts of Mount Erebus” (1911), Gelatin silver print, 29 3/8 x 22 7/8″ (74.6 x 58.1 cm) (The Gayle Greenhill Collection; Gift of Robert F. Greenhill)

Wall Street financier and art collector Robert F. Greenhill gifted the Museum of Modern Art more than 300 photographs by 103 photographers. The donation of the Gayle Greenhill Collection was made in honor of his late wife, a longstanding member of MoMA’s Committee on Photography who also served on the board of the International Center of Photography. The gift includes works by well-known photographers like Edward Steichen, Diane Arbus, André Kertész, and Man Ray, as well documentary and press photography with an emphasis on themes of war, exploration, and aviation. A portion of the donation will be sold to establish an endowment for MoMA’s photography department.

The French government has drafted a law that would facilitate the repatriation of several high-profile cultural artifacts, requiring that the objects be returned within a year. The artifacts in question, which have been at the center of French restitution debate, include 26 royal objects looted from Benin’s Abomey Palace and a Senegalese saber formerly owned by Omar Saïdou Tall. While the sword was returned to Senegal symbolically in 2019, a complete repatriation was not legally possible because French law does not allow the property of public museum collections to change ownership. The draft law is the latest effort in French President Emmanuel Macon’s campaign to repatriate (some) looted artifacts to their rightful owners.

James Murdoch of the Murdoch media empire plans to purchase a large number of shares in MCH Group, the Swiss company that owns the Art Basel fairs. Pending approval on August 3, Murdoch will own about one third — potentially up to 44% — of stake in the company. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced MCH to cancel its in-person fairs, the company anticipates losses of $138 to $180 million. Murdoch plans to restructure that debt, invest about $111 million from his private firm, and make changes to the way that MCH runs the fairs.

The sneaker market is becoming a thing, which is to say that major auction houses are increasingly holding sales of collectible sneakers. Sotheby’s sold a pair of Nike Air Jordans for $560,000 in May 2020, setting the auction world record for sneakers. Now, Christie’s is collaborating with luxury sneaker marketplace Stadium Goods on “Original Air,” a sale of sneaker memorabilia and sneakers including several pairs worn by Michael Jordan. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the NAACP.

This Week in the Art World

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles announced several senior leadership hires, including Pilar Tompkins Rivas as chief curator. | Los Angeles Times

The Open Society Foundations named the 2020 Soros Art Fellows, including Meleko Mokgosi and Tiago San’tana. | GlobeNewswire

Andra Ursuta will now be represented by David Zwirner. | ARTnews

The 2020 Prix Meret Oppenheim was awarded to Marc Bauer​, Barbara Buser & Eric Honegger, and Koyo Kouoh. | e-flux

The 2020 Berlin Biennale announced its fall participants, including Feminist Health Care Research Group andMauricio Gatti and Grupo Experimental de Cine. | e-flux

Kristin Makholm was let go from her position as executive director at the Minnesota Museum of Art. | Pioneer Press

Christina Brungardt was named as director of the board of trustees at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. | Wisconsin State Journal

Merrill Wagner joined the roster at Pace Gallery. | Pace

Gilbert and George resigned from their role as academicians at the Royal Academy of Art in London. | Guardian

Étant donnés Contemporary Art announced its 15 grantees. | e-flux

Hollis Taggart will open a pop-up location in Southport, Connecticut. | Via email announcement

Nathalie Bondil was let go from her role as director and chief curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. | The Art Newspaper

Rodrigo Moura, Susanna V. Temkin, and Elia Alba will curate El Museo del Barrio’s ESTAMOS BIEN: LA TRIENAL 20/21. | e-flux

The Contemporary Art Center in Lithuania appointed Valentinas Klimašauskas and João Laia as curators of the 2021 Baltic Triennial. | Artforum

The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles appointed Leslie K. Johnson as its Executive Vice President. | Skirball Cultural Center

The Colby College Museum of Art in Maine announced that Jacqueline Terrassa will serve as its new director. | ArtfixDaily

Jane Lombard Gallery is moving from Chelsea to Tribeca. | Instagram

In Memoriam

Blaine Kern Sr. (1927–2020), New Orleans float architect | NOLA.com

Delphine Lévy (1969–2020), Paris Musées director | Le Monde

Molly Neptune Parker (1939–2020), Passamaquoddy Tribe lieutenant and basket weaver | New York Times

Frank Popper (1918–2020), historian of art and technology | Artforum

Naya Rivera (1987–2020), Glee actress | Rolling Stone

Ola Mae Spinks (1914–2020), archivist and librarian | New York Times

Jane Walentas (1944–2020), DUMBO arts patron | The Art Newspaper

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