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The US Government Shutdown is Costing the Smithsonian $1 Million A Week

In further news: New Museum workers vote to unionize; Amanda Schmitt appeals dismissal of Artforum suit

Washington, D.C., 2019. Courtesy: Getty Images; Mark Wilson

Washington, D.C., 2019. Courtesy: Getty Images; Mark Wilson

The US government shutdown continues to wreak havoc for the art scene in Washington, D.C., with the Smithsonian thought to be losing USD$1 million each week due to the impasse. The Smithsonian museums have been shuttered since the beginning of the year due to the shutdown, with 19 museums in the institution’s network closing their doors. Now Smithsonian secretary David J. Skorton has revealed that ‘The closure of restaurants, shops, IMAX theaters and other operations is costing the Smithsonian approximately USD$1 million in revenue each week […] These losses are not recoverable. They will have a lasting effect on our budget for this fiscal year. And that effect grows each day.’ It was recently revealed that the government shutdown has also delayed the release of artist Trevor Paglen’s space sculpture, Orbital Reflector, following its launch in December aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Don’t miss Ian Bourland writing on the shutdown’s dark lesson for the arts: ‘a troubling precedent is already reinforced: free access to the arts in the US cannot be taken for granted.’

Staffers at the New Museum in New York have voted to unionize, joining Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers which represents workers at other museums in the city including MoMA and the Bronx Museum. The museum acknowledged its employees’s decision, saying: ‘We respect their decision, and will move forward in good faith.’ Of the 50 employees eligible to vote – workers at the museum who are non-supervisors and hold roles outside of maintenance and security – 38 voted in favour of unionizing, with 8 against. The museum was criticized for hiring the services of union-busting consultants Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan earlier this year – though the institution says it now no longer employs them.

The former Artforum employee Amanda Schmitt will appeal the dismissal of her defamation lawsuit against Knight Landesman, co-owner and former publisher of the magazine, who was accused of sexually harassing several women. Schmitt’s attorney stated that she intended to file a brief setting out the appeal’s arguments over the coming months. Schmitt initially accused Landesman of ‘unwelcome physical contact and repulsive written and oral demands for intimacy’, in a complaint which also included similar claims from nine other women. But a judge last December said that the lawsuit had partially failed to meet requirements for causes of action.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are to stay in Amsterdam. At 130 years old, the iconic painting is now too delicate to travel, and will have to stay put at the Van Gogh Museum. A ‘full body scan’ has revealed the painting is in a ‘stable but vulnerable’ condition. Museum director Axel Rueger told reporters: ‘We’ve decided that any stresses that the picture could be subjected to were it to travel, were [it] to be lent, that those might be too risky.’

Tate are teaming up with Hyundai to launch a new centre for the study of non-Western art. The Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational will specialise in art from Asia and North Africa, focused on expanding acquisitions from these territories for future exhibitions. It will receive funding from the South Korean company until December 2024. The centre will be run by Sook-Kyung Lee, a senior curator of international art at Tate.

Meanwhile the British Museum is employing a specialist team of curators to monitor the looting of Egyptian and Nubian antiquities. The archaeology experts will investigate the provenance of various ancient artefacts in a bid to reveal stolen artworks, and bring their findings to law enforcement agencies. British Museum curator Marcel Marée told Artnet News: ‘We have become alarmed at widespread practices in the art market. The more you pay attention, the more you notice patterns of laxity, misconduct or obfuscation.’

London’s National Portrait Gallery has announced details for its GBP£35.5 million redevelopment project, set to be completed in 2023. The plans include a new entrance, learning space and public galleries, alongside a complete refurbishment. Director Nick Cullinan said that the plans hoped to ‘put the experience of visitors at the heart of everything we do’. It will be designed by Jamie Fobert Architects and conservation experts Purcell. The redevelopment will generate 20% more public space.

In galleries, appointments and awards news: Richard Saltoun Gallery in London is to dedicate 100% of its programme to women, from March 2019, in a bid to ‘protest the gender inequality that persists in the art world’, starting with a show of work by Rose English; Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York represents the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama; Mika Rottenberg joins Hauser & Wirth’s roster; the Royal Academy of Arts has elected Lubaina Himid as a Royal Academician in Painting; and Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul has scooped the eighth edition of the biennial Artes Mundi prize, which comes with a GBP£40,000 award.

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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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