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Turkish Official Says Some of Hagia Sophia’s Christian Mosaics Will Be Concealed During Prayers

| Speaking with the broadcaster NTV, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that some mosaics of the Virgin Mary and the archangel Gabriel that are positioned in the direction of Mecca, which Muslims face during the mosque’s five daily prayers, would be covered with curtains. The mosaics will be uncovered during tourist traffic between prayers. Kalin added that other mosaics depicting Jesus and other Christian figures that are not facing Mecca should not pose a problem during Muslim prayers, but he did not clarify whether they would remain visible at all times. Read the full story here.

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Statue of Black Lives Matter Activist Removed by Bristol Authorities

| A sculpture of activist Jen Reid in Bristol was removed by City Council only 24 hours after it was installed. Created by artist Marc Quinn, the statue had stood in place of a bronze of 17th-century enslaver Edward Colston that was toppled by demonstrators in June. Installed by Quinn and a team in the early hours of Wednesday, July 15,  the sculpture was swiftly condemned by Mayor Marvin Rees, who said it was put up without city permission. After removing the sculpture this morning, Bristol City Council announced it would be held at the local museum “for the artist to collect or donate to [its] collection.” Mayor Rees said the people of Bristol should democratically decide what should replace the slave trader’s monument. Read the full story here.

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Trump Administration Rescinds Ruling on International Students

| The regulation would have forced international students enrolled in online-only universities in the fall to leave the country. In the week since the controversial guidelines were announced, eight federal lawsuits were filed by universities, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Hundreds of other institutions, including independent art schools where international students make up a significant fraction of the student body, such as the Pratt Institute, joined amicus briefs in support of the legal motion. The update means a return to the guidelines issued in March at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of the Department of Homeland Security temporarily waived restrictions on international students engaging in online coursework. Read the full story here.

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After Citywide Debate About a Nazi Symbol, Police Officer Agrees to Alter Tattoo

| Nat Small, a police officer in Washington who was scrutinized for his tattoo associated with the Nazi SS corps, announced he will alter the tattoo to remove the double lighting bolt symbol. For over a month, local residents of Walla Walla held rallies and sent hundreds of letters and emails to the local city council and the police department urging them to address Small’s employment. Read the full story here.

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Printed Matter Launches Online Initiatives to Support LA Art Book Fair Exhibitors

| After Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair (LAABF) canceled its 2020 edition, scheduled to open on April 3, over coronavirus concerns, the nonprofit has launched a robust online response to support exhibitors after the fair’s cancellation. The LAABF website’s more than 350 exhibitor pages will be regularly updated to include direct links to purchase artists’ books as well as curated reading lists, music lineups, and content related to the Classroom and the Plaza Stage lineup, two of the fair’s programs. Printed Matter may also live stream some programming off-site that we were meant to be presented at the fair. Read the full story here.

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Censored Video by Xandra Ibarra Might Go Back on View

| During a public meeting at the Centro de Artes in San Antonio, Texas, the center’s committee voted to reinstall Xandra Ibarra’s work, which had been removed from the exhibition XicanX: New Visions. The city, which funds and oversees Centro de Artes, had barred Ibarra’s video prior to the exhibition’s opening, citing “obscene content.” The decision now moves to the hands of the San Antonio Arts Commission, a group of 15 members appointed by the Mayor and City Council, who will vote on the issue on March 10. Read the full story here.

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Santa Fe Historic Board Says Pro-Palestinian Mural Must Go

| The board said that the decision was due to the material of the mural — papier maché, which is “inconsistent” with the aesthetics of the neighborhood — rather than the content. Miller called the ruling a “violation of his property rights, his First Amendment rights of public expression and free speech, the right not to have his art discriminated against and censored because of its content, and his right to participate in the rich art heritage and messaging through art in Santa Fe,” the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

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Open Letter Endorsing Bernie Sanders Reaches Over 1,000 Signatures, Nearly Doubling Overnight

| Since yesterday, February 24, the number of artists, critics, and cultural workers supporting Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign with an open letter has jumped from 665 to more than 1,200 today, with the addition of names like Gabo Camnitzer, Aria Dean, Bouchra Khalili, Elka Krajewska, and Agustina Woodgate. Read the full story here.

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Court Overturns Controversial UNC Settlement With Neo-Confederate Group Over “Silent Sam” Monument

| The settlement, approved in November, would have required UNC Chapel Hill to hand over the Confederate monument “Silent Sam” to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and pay the group $2.5 million to preserve and house it. This Wednesday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that the plaintiff lacked legal standing. Read the full story here.

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Art Basel Will Refund Hong Kong Exhibitors 75% Of Booth Fee

| Art Basel will partially refund galleries slated to participate in its now-canceled Hong Kong fair, according to a fair spokesperson. MCH Group, Art Basel’s parent company, announced its decision to call off the fair yesterday, February 6, due to concerns related to the rapidly spreading coronavirus. A few weeks ago, the fair’s organizers had reportedly refused participating galleries’ request for a 50% reduction in booth fees, describing the concession as “financially untenable.” Read the full story here.