Museum Directors Lobby to Reopen, an Ambitious Accessibility Plan, and More: Morning Links from February 3, 2021

Centre Pompidou Metz, 2015.

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The Headlines

SHOULD MUSEUMS BE OPEN RIGHT NOW? “There are 50-plus sets of different rules and thousands of museums making different decisions,” Laura Lott, the president of the American Alliance of Museums, told Julia Jacobs in a New York Times story about the wildly varying responses  museums have taken—or have been forced to take—in response to the coronavirus. A number of Swiss museum directors have called on the government to reopen them, as ARTnews reported last week, and now more than 100 of their French peers have done the sameArtforum reports. Worldwide, 95 percent of museums have closed for at least some stretch of the pandemic, according to a survey cited by Deutsche Welle. German museums  are closed at the moment, and some of their leaders are calling for an easing of restrictions. The president of the German Museums AssociationEckart Köhne, told DW that many organizations have “no financial cushion” at this point. Barring major bailouts, arts nonprofits are likely to face perilous balance sheets regardless of what they do—until they can reopen fully. As Daniel Weiss, the CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said to the Times of operating at reduced capacity, “We are not making money by doing this; we are losing money.”

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A GERMAN COMMISSION HAS RULED THAT AN ERICH HECKEL painting in the collection of the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe should be returned to the heirs of Jewish historian Max Fischer, the Associated Press  reports. Fischer fled Nazi Germany in 1935, and while the exact chain of ownership of the work is unclear, it somehow made its way back into the possession of Heckel sometime after 1934, and he later donated it to the museum. The panel ruled that it was likely that the historian had been forced to sell the work under duress. His heirs have said they will donate the work to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Why the VMFA? The Art Newspaper has the great detail that the museum holds the collection of Max’s parents, Ludwig and Rosy Fischer, including a 1913 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner  painting that the Museum of Modern Art returned to the family in 2015.

The Digest

Sandra Walters, who was instrumental in bringing Hong Kong art to a global audience, first as an art dealer, then as an art consultant, is dead at 76. [South China Morning Post]

“British businesses across a range of sectors, including art and antiques, are now discovering trade is not quite as free as they had hoped,” post-Brexit, Scott Reyburn reports. (There are new fees and bureaucratic hurdles.)  [The New York Times]

Reyburn also has a bracing column on the domination of the art industry by neoliberalism. “Auctions were once likened to theatre, but now Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips’s live-streamed sales are more like high-value game shows,” he writes.  [The Art Newspaper]

The Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio is hiring a manager of access initiatives, a new position, with the aim of being the the most disability-friendly museum in the United States. [The Blade]

A San Francisco artist seems to have tricked some with a satirical campaign for a program that would allow influencers and brands to apply for blue-checkmark badges for their homes. [SFGate]

Doug Aitken is embarking on a wheat-pasting campaign in Los Angeles. The posters he is putting up will include QR codes that link to excerpts of his latest film project. [Los Angeles Times]

Critic and curator Antwaun Sargent, who just joined Gagosian as a director, discussed his recent work—and five photographs that are key for him. [Buzzfeed News]

The museum dedicated to the Korean artist 이중섭  has ruled that his name should be romanized as Lee Jung-seop—not Lee Jung-seob, as it is often rendered, among other variations. [The Korea Herald]

If you were hoping to snap up architect John Storrs’s midcentury modern home in Milwaukie, Oregon, you are out of luck, for now. It was sold in four days, with the buyer selected from 16 offers.  [The Oregonian]

Pittsburgh artist Janel Young was tapped by Yahoo to design a special logo for Black History Month. [KDKA]

Actress Isla Fisher and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen paid a visit to gallery for Aboriginal art in Sydney on Fisher’s birthday. [The Daily Mail]

The Kicker

Yesterday in this newsletter we had the tale of Old Master paintings being retrieved from the burning New Jersey mansion of Joseph Bonaparte. Today, there is  a remarkable story in Stuff about a bar owner in Lyttelton, New Zealand, rescuing a  Bill Hammond painting from his damaged business after a 2011 earthquake. Hammond—an esteemed fixture of the nation’s art scene who died this past weekend—had parted with the work to settle a tab at the Volcano Cafe and Lava Bar, where it was then prominently displayed. Saving it, “we had to demolish the door on the way out because the artwork was too big,” the proprietor, Peter Llewelyn Evans, said. “The big hammers came out.’’ He ended up selling it through Webb’s auction house to the Christchurch Art Gallery. It now resides in its permanent collection. “We felt it should be somewhere special,” Evans said.  [Stuff]

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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