- A New York law requires museums to label Nazi-looted art, and Alexandra Tremayne-Pengelly of the New York Observer investigates if the institutions are doing so:
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is the agency in charge of administering the bill, said Chuck Lavine, a New York State Assemblymember who sponsored the law. “It actually shouldn’t be very difficult, the museums know which pieces of art were subject to tyranny,” he said. “I don’t view that as being a great challenge.”
However, the NYSED said it doesn’t have any related regulations or an ability to implement the law. “The law itself does not contemplate or require the Department to promulgate regulations and it is unclear why this would be needed,” said the department in a statement. “Only museums themselves would have access to such collection inventories and related documents that would identify such provenance, having researched the works of art themselves, and would then post the information when displayed.”
While the onus to follow the bill is therefore on New York museums, it doesn’t appear to have led to any significant changes across institutions in New York City.
- For Harper’s Bazaar, historian Kaitlyn Greenidge reflects on a photograph of the 1970s Black women’s writing circle The Sisterhood that went viral recently, featuring literary luminaries such as Alice Walker, June Jordan, and Toni Morrison:
The Sisterhood writing group formed as the wave of revolutionary rhetoric and organizing of the ’60s crested into something else. It came from the “Black power movement and the women’s movement, out of either the rubble or the structures of both of those movements,” professor Noliwe Rooks tells me. Rooks is the chair of the Africana Studies department at Brown University. Of the members of the Sisterhood, she says, “They weren’t brands, and they weren’t celebrities.” The group served, Rooks posits, as a critique of the idea that there could be only one great Black woman writer in a generation. The Sisterhood insisted on multiplicity. A generation earlier, James Baldwin and Richard Wright had circled each other warily, cognizant of the scrutiny of the larger white literary world. The Sisterhood, at least at its start, rejected the myth of the one and only. This is evident in Morrison’s work as an editor at Random House, where she published works by Angela Davis and Henry Dumas, and Walker’s promotion of fellow Black female writers to publications and editors. It’s there in members’ archived syllabi, where we can see them assigning one another’s work to their students, long before that work was considered part of any canon.
- Elizabeth Kadetsky writes for the American Scholar about a set of Rajasthani Hindu sculptures stolen from India in the 1960s and sold into American museums (and scholar Erin Thompson has a meme reacting to one of many infuriating parts of this story):
I heard a great deal that day about how important the sculptures were to local life. “If someone didn’t have a child,” one person said, “they worshipped the goddesses so they could have one. If someone was suffering from a disease, they also worshipped the goddesses.” Another offered that worshipping the goddesses could bring a male child. The temple itself had been the site of a famous miracle, others said, a legend I heard about in greater detail on one of my later visits. A priest would tell me a version of the famous story of Surabhi, a cow that would wander off from its home every day and come home dry. Surabhi’s owner, angry that someone was apparently stealing his milk, secretly followed the cow to the temple, where he watched as its teats released a flood of milk onto the ground. This it had been doing every day, he learned. Later, a statue materialized on that very spot, an emanation of Lord Shiva. “That was how everyone knew that the temple was magical,” the priest explained. And in the same storytelling voice, he said, “Thirty-five years ago, a goddess statue was stolen from here. Now, the government is going to send her back.”
- Zach Goldbaum and Todd Bieber created a video report for the New York Times about “the World’s Most Honorable Bank Robbers”:
A wave of armed bank robberies has been sweeping Lebanon amid its economic meltdown. But the heists have followed a highly unusual pattern: The robbers are the banks’ clients, and the money they have been demanding is the contents of their own accounts.
- Twitter was ablaze this week after a New Yorker article declared the death of the English major. In response, Matt Pearce opines in the LA Times that studying literature and language does, in fact, still have its benefits (who knew?):
The immeasurable value in encountering any of these writers — or spending time with any serious creative, intellectual or spiritual work — comes from cultivating the radical subjectivity that is our birthright as humans, the burden we carry for all time. Observation, testing and replication can and will build faster jets, better medicines or more capable AI. But where do rights come from? Whose history should be taught about the founding of the United States? What’s good prose, and who’s just a blowhard trying to show off? What immortal fire connects Johnny Cash with Kendrick Lamar?
- Recycling is often posed as a solution to clothing waste. For BBC’s Future Planet, Ana Santi investigates the “world’s first commercial-scale, textile-to-textile chemical recycling pulp mill” and whether it’s actually possible to recycle used garments:
Much of the technical difficulty in recycling worn-out clothes back into new clothing comes down to their composition. The majority of clothes in our wardrobes are made from a blend of textiles, with polyester the most widely produced fibre, accounting for a 54% share of total global fibre production, according to the global non-profit Textile Exchange. Cotton is second, with a market share of approximately 22%. The reason for polyester’s prevalence is the low cost of fossil-based synthetic fibres, making them a popular choice for fast fashion brands, which prioritise price above all else – polyester costs half as much per kg as cotton. While the plastics industry has been able to break down pure polyester (PET) for decades, the blended nature of textiles has made it challenging to recycle one fibre, without degrading the other.
- Meanwhile, Emma Marris writes in the Atlantic about the limitations of simply asking companies like Zara to share their carbon emissions through financial disclosures, often more about profitability than sustainability:
If this system operates as its designers envision, it’ll be straightforward to fact-check any green claims made by publicly traded companies, and the metrics should be similar all around the world. With investors and companies alike demanding consistent metrics across jurisdictions, it will be possible to easily compare, say, a German company with a Brazilian one—so companies that operate in many countries will have only one set of figures to assemble. But the real anti-greenwashing mechanism isn’t shame; it’s the legal liability of company boards. As one legal analysis points out, in the United States, “boards that selectively or inaccurately disclose the climate risks their companies face, or that leave their climate-related goals in the form of aspirational targets and commitments … will be exposed to regulatory action and potentially significant fines and other penalties.”
- A website launched last November identified around 1,400 Fascist monuments and structures across Italy, and NPR‘s Sylvia Poggioli looks into why so many remain standing:
Historian Ceci, one of the website’s coordinators, says the project started seven years ago. It is backed by the Ferruccio Parri National Institute in Milan, named after an anti-fascist partisan who went on to become the first prime minister of postwar, newly democratic Italy in 1945.
Ceci says the mapping project was inspired by debates in other countries —including the United States — over how to treat monuments glorifying colonialism and slave owners.
Ceci and her fellow researchers do not call for the destruction of fascist-era monuments. But they want to add explanatory plaques that contextualize their origins. The aim is to promote a reckoning of the legacy of the regime.
“Otherwise,” she says, “the message continues to be that fascism brought modernity to the city, hiding the dictatorship, the persecutions, the discriminations and the war.”
- A new initiative seeks to provide religious services for incarcerated Jewish people, Aviva Stahl reports for Jewish Currents:
The seed for Matir Asurim—a phrase from Jewish liturgy that means “the one who frees captives”—was planted in Philadelphia in 2019, when a few individuals came together to respond to letters that prisoners had written to Reconstructing Judaism, the central organization of the Reconstructionist Movement. Soon, members of the group, including Shir Lovett-Graff, then working for Reconstructing Judaism, and Jessica Rosenberg, then a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, were fielding new requests from incarcerated Jews and those seeking resources on their behalf, people who might not be considered Jewish by Orthodox standards, and therefore had trouble procuring services from existing Jewish organizations. As time passed, it became clear to Rosenberg, Lovett-Graff, and others that the volume of requests they received were symptomatic of a greater need: The US was missing an organization committed to serving the diverse needs of Jewish and Jewish-curious prisoners.
- Perceptions of race and safety are always interesting because they are so bizarre, this new study suggests something interesting about overweight Asian Americans and how other radicalized groups perceive them:
- A potter shares the results of asking ChatGPT to write ceramic glaze recipes:
- SNL taught us that Pedro Pascal as a protective Hispanic mom is exactly the type of comedy we all need:
- Apparently this is common in Japan and we love it:
- The only team sport we can truly get behind:
- Finally, rare archival footage of the 16th-century it girl herself we’ve all been waiting for!
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.