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Museo del Barrio Pulls Show After Artist’s Rape Admission

In further news: EU parliament calls for Nazi-looted art to be returned; and are art museums becoming more diverse?

Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2018. Courtesy: AFP, Getty Images; photograph: Joel Saget

Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2018. Courtesy: AFP, Getty Images; photograph: Joel Saget

New York’s El Museo del Barrio has pulled its forthcoming show of the Chilean-born artist and film director Alejandro Jodorowsky. The decision to cancel the retrospective, due to open on 28 February, follows public concern over comments made by Jodorowsky in the 1970s about his cult Western El Topo (1970), in which he suggested that he had raped his co-star Mara Lorenzio. An article published in The Telegraph in 2017 detailed how Jodorowsky described the making of a scene in El Topo in a 1972 book: ‘I said, ‘Now it’s my turn. Roll the cameras.’ And I really … I really … I really raped her. And she screamed.’ Jodorowsky revised his version of events in a 2007 interview, saying: ‘I didn’t rape Mara, but I penetrated her with her consent.’ El Museo del Barrio has become embroiled in scandal in recent times, with the decision to cancel the Jodorowsky show coming less than three weeks after the museum u-turned over its plans to honour a German socialite known for her ties to the far-right.

A new report suggests that diversity in US museums is slowly improving, with important caveats. The ‘Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey’, carried out last year through a collaboration between the Association of Art Museum Directors, the American Alliance of Museums, Ithaka S+R, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, found that the percentage of women museum staffers rose from 59 to 61 percent in the years from 2015 to 2018. People of colour increased from 24 to 28 percent among museum workers. The survey draws on data from more than 332 museums and more than 30,000 employees. While the picture showed significant progress for women, who went from 57 percent to 62 percent in occupying leadership roles during this period, it is significantly less rosy for people of colour, who held just 12 percent of such positions of power last year.

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling on EU member states to return Nazi-looted artworks to their rightful owners. It is thought that of the 650,000 artworks seized during the war, around 110,000 are still unaccounted for. The resolution emphasizes the need to invest effort in provenance research, calling the issue of looted artefacts a ‘major shared concern that needs to be addressed.’

Federally funded art museums in Washington, D.C., are reopening following the 35-day US government shutdown, that was brought to an end last week. Staffers furloughed without pay during the 35-day shutdown will now have their pay restored. Last week, Smithsonian secretary David Skorton claimed that the shutdown had cost the institution USD$1 million each week. Don’t miss Ian Bourland writing on the shutdown’s deeper legacy for the art world – the museums might have opened again, but ‘a troubling precedent is already reinforced: free access to the arts in the US cannot be taken for granted.’

Construction workers have discovered a rare 17th-century painting while renovating an Oscar de la Renta boutique in Paris – the artwork has been traced back to an artist from the court of Louis XIV. A worker came across the vast oil painting behind a fiberboard wall last summer; the painting features a group of a marquis and courtiers on horseback, entering Jerusalem. Experts have identified the artwork as a 1674 painting by Arnould de Vuez, who has been linked to Louis XIV’s court painter Charles Le Brun. It has been suggested that the artwork was glued to its wall in a bid to keep it from the hands of Nazi looters. Parisian art restorer Benoît Janson told The Times: ‘It was totally unexpected to find it there in the most banal of offices. We are discovering very exceptional things as we restore it.’

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is reviewing its gift policies following the current controversy that has enveloped its longstanding donors, the Sackler family, and certain family members’s financial connections to OxyContin and its part in the US opioid crisis. Met president Daniel Weiss has said: ‘the Sackler family has been connected with The Met for more than a half century. The family is a large extended group and their support of The Met began decades before the opioid crisis. The Met is currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course.’

In movements and appointments news: Shannon R. Stratton has resigned from her role as chief curator at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design; Hayley Haldeman has been named as interim executive director of Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory; scholar Elizabeth Rodini is heading to the American Academy in Rome as its new arts director; Diller Scofidio + Renfro cofounder Liz Diller has scooped the Jane Drew Prize 2019 for women in architecture; and Victori+Mo gallery in Brooklyn is heading to Chelsea, opening on 14 March with an exhibition by Phoenix Lindsey-Hall.

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Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

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