Art Market

The ongoing U.S. government shutdown is threatening upcoming exhibitions and an art project in space.

Benjamin Sutton
Jan 23, 2019 5:00PM, via Washington Post

The East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy the National Gallery of Art, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art (NGA) have been closed for over four weeks because of the partial closure of the U.S. government, as have the offices of the the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), preventing the organization from reviewing or issuing grants. Now, as the shutdown enters its second month, institutions beyond D.C. are starting to feel its effects.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) is planning a major exhibition next year to mark the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave some women the right to vote. However, its grant application process for support from the NEA is on hold as long as the endowment’s employees remain furloughed, according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, putting some of the programming that was scheduled to coincide with the exhibition at risk of cancellation.

“If we can’t apply for grants because their staff can’t work, that puts some of our public programs at risk in the future,” Brooke Davis Anderson, the museum director at PAFA, told the Inquirer.

The effects of the shutdown are even being felt in space, where Trevor Paglen’s satellite-borne sculpture project in partnership with the Nevada Museum of Art, Orbital Reflector, has yet to be deployed over a month after it was launched aboard a SpaceX rocket, according to a report in The Art Newspaper. According to an update posted on the project’s Kickstarter page, no progress can be made until the shutdown ends:

The FCC had asked us to wait for their go-ahead before we deploy the balloon. Since the government shutdown began, communication with the FCC has been suspended, as they are not operational at this time. [...] Despite these challenging circumstances, the Orbital Reflector engineers continue to communicate with the satellite, and all systems appear healthy. The team is hopeful that the satellite can withstand the wait during the unforeseen government shutdown.

Design concept rendering for Trevor Paglen: Orbital Reflector, co-produced and presented by the Nevada Museum of Art. Courtesy of Trevor Paglen and Nevada Museum of Art, 2017.

Back on Earth, forthcoming exhibitions at the NGA and several Smithsonian museums are also at risk due to the shutdown, according to the Washington Post. The NGA’s hotly anticipated Jacopo Tintoretto retrospective, currently slated to open on March 10th, is reportedly “weeks behind schedule,” due to the shutdown. Meanwhile, exhibitions planned for February and March at the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African Art, as well as the Smithsonian Gardens’ annual orchid display, have all been indefinitely postponed.

Benjamin Sutton
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