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The week in art news – Arts Council England announces its national funding portfolio

Plus: Subhash Kapoor sentenced to ten years in prison | National Palace Museum in Taipei admits to breaking objects worth £66m | Fire breaks out at the American Museum of Natural History | Hirshhorn Museum reveals architects for renovation

4 November 2022

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced its national portfolio for funded organisations from 2023–26. In total, 990 arts organisations across the country have been awarded a share of £446m over the four-year period, including 276 new additions. The portfolio has been shaped by the UK government’s Levelling Up programme, with £43.5m awarded to organisations located in 78 towns and cities designated as Levelling Up for Culture Places, while more than £50m has been cut from the budgets of organisations in London. Speaking at a press conference, the Arts Council’s chief executive Darren Henley said that the new portfolio is intended to reflect ‘how England looks and feels in the 21st century’. Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council, confirmed that the body was instructed by the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to ‘take money out of London’ – a move that Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, has described in a statement as ‘devastat[ing]’. Henley also confirmed that the decision to delay the announcement of the portfolio, previously scheduled to take place last Wednesday (28 October), was not due to any last-minute changes in funding, with the final decisions made ‘two or three weeks ago’.

The art dealer Subhash Kapoor has been sentenced to ten years in prison by a court in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, for his role in trafficking antiquities out of India. The ruling culminates a long-running investigation into a smuggling ring headed by Kapoor, who looted thousands of artefacts from significant archaeological sites across India and other South Asian countries, worth a combined total of around $143m. A complaint filed as part of a concurrent investigation in the US stated that ‘Kapoor would [also] loan stolen antiquities to major museums and institutions creating yet another false veneer of legitimacy.’ The 71-year-old has been charged with dishonestly receiving and concealing stolen property, including through the creation of false provenance, as well as participating in criminal conspiracy. Five of his accomplices also received prison sentences this week.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei has admitted to previously undisclosed breakages of three Chinese artefacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties, worth a reported £66m ($77m). The items – a bowl, a teacup and a plate – were broken in three separate incidents during the past 18 months but only came to light last week under questioning from a Taiwan legislator. Wu Mi-cha, the director of the museum, has strongly denied accusations of attempting to cover up the damage. ‘We have absolutely not hidden anything about this,’ he said at a press conference.

Firefighters were called to New York City’s American Museum of Natural History early on Tuesday morning after receiving a call about smoke in an office on the first floor of the building. The fire was contained within the hour without any damage caused to the institution’s exhibits. It is believed to have been caused by electrical wiring.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has hired Selldorf Architects and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the largest renovation in the history of the institution, which opened in Washington, D.C., in 1974. Work is expected to begin in 2025.

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