01 Pay data from the U.K. showed a large wage gap between women and men working at top auction houses.
All British businesses, charities, and public entities with more than 250 employees were required to submit pay information to the government ahead of a deadline for the information Wednesday. Over 10,000 companies complied, and the data revealed stark gender pay discrepancies at some art world institutions, primarily those in the auction sector. Bonhams reported a 36.7% pay gap, while “Christie’s pays women 25% less than male colleagues and the difference at Sotheby’s stands at 22.2%,” The Art Newspaper
reported. The gap was calculated based on median hourly earnings and includes the pay of part-time workers, the majority of whom are women. In the auction houses, as in most private-sector firms, men outnumber women in senior leadership roles. The median pay gap among all firms who reported data stood at 9.7%. Most galleries, arts nonprofits, and smaller auction houses did not have to report data because they have fewer than 250 employees. Museums and public institutions fared far better, with women at the Tate
and the British Museum
earning slightly more than their male colleagues. But men saw a higher paycheck than women at some influential museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum
, and at the Arts Council of England, an arts funding body.
02 A New York judge ruled that two Egon Schiele drawings were forcibly taken by the Nazis, and must be returned to the rightful heirs.
The judge ordered Richard Nagy, a British art dealer, to turn
’s Woman in a Black Pinafore
(1911) and Woman Hiding her Face
(1912) over to the heirs of Franz Friedrich “Fritz” Grünbaum in a ruling handed down Thursday. Judge Charles E. Ramos of the state supreme court in Manhattan found that Grünbaum, a Jewish cabaret performer, was forced to transfer ownership of the pieces to his wife at gunpoint in 1938 before being murdered in a concentration camp three years later. In New York, stolen property cannot be legally acquired, even if subsequent buyers purchased it in good faith. Lawyers for Nagy argued that the pieces were actually not looted, but instead were legally sold by Grünbaum’s sister-in-law to a Swiss gallery in 1956, and that, regardless, the heirs forfeited title to the works by not searching for them after the war. Another owner of a different artwork tied to Grünbaum successfully invoked that defense, known as laches, to beat back a similar claim on his pieces by the heirs in 2012. But Judge Ramos dismissed that defense in this case, asserting that the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) act, which passed in 2016
, meant that the heirs’ claim was timely, given they discovered the pieces in 2015 at the Salon Art + Design Show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. A lawyer for the Grünbaum heirs told Reuters
that the ruling “brought us a step closer to recovering all of the culture that was stolen during the largest mass theft in history.”
03 Four works at the Assemblée Nationale in Paris have disappeared from the walls, authorities say.
The art was pronounced missing from the French parliament at the end of last year, when an annual check through the holdings revealed that paintings by several artists had been removed from their recorded positions on various office walls. Authorities looking for the works for the first few months of the year turned up nothing, ultimately declaring them lost. “Searches carried out up until now have not led us to finding them,” a spokesperson said in a story from The Guardian
. The missing trove includes work by the Greek artist
, and French artists
, as well as another artist who wasn’t identified. The misplacement of objects and artworks within government facilities in France isn’t all that uncommon. According to figures cited by The Guardian
, there are roughly 430,000 works of art spread out across all public buildings in France, and a 2016 report suggested that 22,800 objects had gone missing.
04 After the Brooklyn Museum hired a white woman to curate its African art department, an activist group proposed starting a “decolonization commission.”
Debate is still raging a week after the Brooklyn Museum
announced that a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, had been hired as the Sills Family Consulting Curator of the museum’s African art department. The announcement incited backlash on Twitter and inspired many op-eds, including one by the poet Teju Adisa-Farrar, who asked, “Why are white curators still running African art collections?” Now, the group Decolonize This Place has demanded that the museum more fully address the hiring decision by convening a commission that would explore a number of options going forward—including diversifying the curatorial staff. “No matter how one parses it, the appointment is simply not a good look in this day and age—especially on the part of a museum that prides itself on its relationships with the diverse communities of Brooklyn,” the letter reads. ARTnews
, which published the letter in full, also noted that there are some who support Windmuller-Luna’s hiring. Steven Nelson, a professor of African and African American art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that the reality is the field of African art studies is dominated by white curators, and that among them, Windmuller-Luna is “richly deserving of the Brooklyn position.”
05 The Victoria and Albert Museum offered Ethiopia a long-term loan of artifacts that were looted from the country.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
(V&A) is offering to return the artifacts plundered from Ethiopia by British troops during the 1868 Battle of Maqdala in the form of a long-term loan to the country. The works are currently on view as part of an exhibition at the British museum. The V&A’s proposal, which follows French president Emmanuel Macron’s historic announcement that restitution of African artifacts would be a top priority for his country, will likely place pressure on other institutions, such as the British Library and the British Museum
, to consider restitution plans themselves, The Art Newspaper
reported. More broadly, the V&A will “reflect on this imperial past, to be open about this history and to interpret that history,” according to director Tristram Hunt. The museum’s proposal, however, means that while Ethiopia would get the treasures back, the V&A will remain the technical owners of the collection. Nonetheless, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the U.K., Hailemichael Aberra Afework, told The Art Newspaper
, “We were consulted about the V&A exhibition from its inception, and we appreciate that these sacred treasures will now be on display. We hope they will be of great interest to the British public. Ethiopia has been demanding the return of all treasures taken from Maqdala for some years now.”
06 A professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design says he’s been forced out for showing his students an artwork that some considered graphic.
Experimental filmmaker Saul Levine is departing the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) following a firestorm of student complaints that emerged from a classroom screening of his 1989 film Notes After Long Silence
, which contains footage of the artist nude and having sex with his partner. Levine, who has taught at MassArt for 39 years, appeared quite shaken up over the conflict in a 27-minute Facebook Live video
. “The people in that room all agreed that I had committed sexual harassment by showing my class that film,” he stated in the video. “I thought I would show two of my own films that also deal a lot with editing structures and some of the issues I saw coming up in their films,” he explained. The artist’s departure follows the exit of photographer
, who decided to retire last week after receiving multiple Title IX allegations regarding sexually inappropriate behavior. A spokesperson for the school told the Boston Globe
that Levine is expected to continue teaching through the current semester.
07 The far-right political faction in Italy has proposed turning a former Fascist party headquarters into a modern art museum.
The Lega party won 18 percent of the vote in last month’s general election by campaigning on a platform that championed anti-immigrant policies, but three pages of its manifesto detail how the party would support cultural development, calling it “the industry that can guarantee us primacy compared with the rest of the world.” Lega’s manifesto also includes thoughts about the state of cultural affairs in the country and proposes that Italy’s non-state museums be consolidated, and that the value added tax should be lowered to allow for a more robust art trade. Among the most shocking of the group’s proposals is the plan to make a museum out of a building in Como, Lombardy, which was built in the 1930s as a Casa del Fascio, one of around 5,000 Fascist party headquarters that were mostly constructed during the Mussolini era.
08 The Frick Collection in New York will finally get an expansion, which will keep its historic garden intact.
Architect Annabelle Selldorf has designed several new components for the private museum on the Upper East Side, each of which will have a view of the garden, which was designed by British landscape architect Russell Page, the New York Times
reported. A 2015 attempt to build a six-story addition by another architect had been vetoed because it involved removing the garden. The new plan features a renovated lobby, the addition of a second level above the reception hall, and a new education center with a café and a larger museum shop. The Frick
will also add a 220-seat auditorium under the garden, to be used for educational and public programming. The museum’s $30 million operating budget is expected to rise by $1 million or $2 million after the renovation, and the institution will likely have to raise its $22 admission fee, Ian Wardropper, the Frick’s director, told the paper. The construction is expected to cost $160 million and be completed between 2020 and 2022.
09 A judge on the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that the controversial Berkshire Museum sale can proceed under terms negotiated with the state’s attorney general.
The Berkshire Museum’s sale of artwork from its collection, a saga marked by seemingly endless twists and turns, appears to finally be on a straight track toward the auction block. Justice David A. Lowy of the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County approved an agreement between the museum and the office of the attorney general, which allows the sale of artwork from the museum’s collection until the proceeds hit a $55 million cap. The agreement also prevented the museum’s prized
works from entering a private collection, though they will be sold to an as-yet-unnamed public institution. Lowy’s ruling also rejected a request from opponents of the sale—citizens who were voicing their opinion but not formally appealing—that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee how funds raised by the museum as part of the auction are used. The works will be sold at Sotheby’s next month.
10 A recent episode of The Simpsons featured the artist John Baldessari, who voiced his own character.
America’s favorite cartoon family has had a few interactions with contemporary artists over the years. During the episode “Mom and Pop Art,” Homer Simpson has a dream where
is pelting him with soup cans, and later, he sells a work at an art fair in front of
, who is busy stuffing his trenchcoat with free food. “In your face, Jasper Johns!” Homer yells. Still, viewers must have been a little surprised when, during last week’s episode, there’s a flashback to Marge Simpson’s days as a reporter for The Springfield Shopper
where she attempts to score an interview with
. The West Coast
even provided his own voice for the show, says Apollo
magazine. Getting to voice a character on The Simpsons
is quite the honor—the show has nabbed cameos from luminaries as varied as Stephen Hawking and Michael Jackson, and even secured a guest spot from the notoriously reclusive author Thomas Pynchon.