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Week in Review: After Explosion, Beirut Galleries Band Together; Philadelphia Museum of Art Workers Unionize

Also, the Tenement Museum Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, and more.

Damaged galleries at the Sursock Museum in Beirut, Lebanon (photo courtesy the Sursock Museum)

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.

In the wake of the massive explosion in Beirut, which killed at least 135 people, art institutions are banding together to help protect collections and offer storage. Gallery director Gaia Foudolian and prominent architect Jean-Marc Bonfils both died in the blast.

The Tenement Museum Union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the Lower East Side museum, accusing its leadership of unfair labor practices. The complaint was filed on July 24, two days after the museum laid off 76 workers, which included its entire staff of part-time educators.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art laid off 79 workers. Another 181 were furloughed and 93 workers accepted voluntary retirement.

A $5 million gift from philanthropist Adrienne Arsht will be used to pay all future interns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The “Wall of Artists” in Portland, Oregon (photo courtesy Jonny Luczycki)

Fifteen artists set up easels and art equipment in downtown Portland, Oregon for a live painting action called the “Wall of Artists.”

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) laid off 85 employees who were furloughed in June. Days later, PMA workers voted to unionize, with an 89% majority of votes in favor.

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) announced that it will reopen its doors to the public on September 9, pending approval from New York State and New York City. The museum has also ended its pay-what-you-wish admission policy.

“Ode to Putin,” one of three living statues commemorating the misdeeds of President Trump, part of the Trump Statue Initiative by Bryan Buckley (photo courtesy Hungry Man Productions)

The Trump Statue Initiative, which makes temporary monuments mocking the president, staged its latest series in Portland, concurrent with the protests there and the federal government’s violent response.

An illustration by digital artist Alexis Franklin commemorating Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was murdered by Louisville police, will grace the upcoming cover of Oprah Magazine’s September edition.

Transactions

1877 Oscar Wilde questionnaire (courtesy of Sotheby’s)

Pi-eX, a London-based art market analytics company, reported the extent of recent losses at the “big three” auction houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips. In the second quarter of last year, the auction houses made $4.4 billion. In the same period this year, they have made $900 million, a whopping 79% decline. It is clear that, at this point in time, online auctions are simply not capable of generating as much income as in-person sales. When all auctions were online-only in April, revenue dropped, as did the average lot price. And when in-person sales came back in June, so did revenue; the June sales accounted for 85% of the second quarter revenue.

Sotheby’s London held its summer Books and Manuscripts sale, an online auction with pieces on topics as disparate as avians and Zionism. The sale notably included a collection of Oscar Wilde material from the collection of actor Steven Berkoff, who directed and acted in an adaptation of Wilde’s once-banned tragedy Salomé. Standout lots include a questionnaire of personal questions that a young Wilde answered in 1877, which sold for £47,880 (~$62,984), and a 16-page letter that he sent to the manager of St. James’s Theater outlining his comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, which sold for £126,000(~$165,712).

Phillips has debuted a new art analytics tool, Articker, to aid in the tricky task of tracking artists’ markets. Normally the method of choice in deducing market trends in the art world is some combination of gut instinct and Artnet’s price database, a searchable aggregator of auction results. Bringing new algorithmic capacities to the table, Articker trawls open-source data like media coverage to chart market trends and identify emerging markets in a different way. Its database currently includes some 150,000 artists.

This Week in the Art World

New York’s Miles McEnery Gallery added Rico Gatson to its roster. | Miles McEnery Gallery

Gagosian will open spaces in Los Angeles and Athens. | Artsy

Art Paris released a list of its 2020 exhibitors. | Art Paris

Germany’s Federal Art Collection increased its acquisition budget by 600%. | Artforum

Sotheby’s Old Master Specialist Chloe Stead will now serve as Senior Director at Colnaghi in London. | artdaily

The Ackland Art Museum at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill received a donation of three paintings from Jane Roughton Kearns. | Charlotte Observer

Lisson Gallery is expanding to East Hampton. | Lisson Gallery

Three trustees have joined the board of the San Antonio Museum of Art. | via email announcement

The Shaker Museum in Chatham, New York announced amajor expansion program. | Art Newspaper

Eight employees were laid off at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. | Los Angeles Times

The Future Generation Art Prize shortlist was announced. | Future Generation Art Prize

In Memoriam

Eric Bentley (1916–2020), theater critic and playwright | Broadway World

David Cort (1935–2020), founding member of Videofreex | Instagram

Pete Hamill (1935–2020), New York journalist, editor, and writer | The Daily Beast

John Homans (1958–2020), magazine editor | Vanity Fair

Dr. Mohamed Mashali (1944–2020), Egyptian “doctor of the poor” | Middle East Monitor

Adam Max (1958–2020), Brooklyn Academy of Music chairman | Bloomberg

Martha Nierenberg (1924–2020), Dansk Designs co-founder and art restitution plaintiff | artdaily

Alan Parker (1944–2020), British film director and producer | CNN

James Powers (1940–2020), Brooklyn gallerist | New York Times

James Silberman (1927–2020), book editor | New York Times

Abdul Hay Mosallam Zarara (1933–2020), Palestinian artist | ARTnews

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