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The week in art news – Australian museums to receive major funding boost

6 April 2023

The Australian government has announced that the next federal budget in May will include a funding package of $535m (AUD) to be shared among its nine major national collecting institutions. Institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), the National Library of Australia and the National Museum of Australia had been facing severe financial shortfalls as the result of what prime minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged has been a ‘decade of decline’ and ‘chronic underfunding’. The NGA had announced that it needs around $265m (AUD) to pay for urgent repairs to the building, while the National Library has been given a lifeline to avert the closure of Trove, the public digital archive that holds billions of images.

The American photographer Kwame Brathwaite has died at the age of 85. Born in 1938 to Barbadian parents in New York, Brathwaite began to document jazz performances by the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane in his early twenties. In 1962 – with the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios (AJASS) he co-founded with his brother Elombe – Brathwaite staged ‘Naturally ’62’, the first of a series of fashion pageants in Harlem featuring the Grandassa Models. On the posters appeared the phrase ‘Black is Beautiful’, which Brathwaite is credited with popularising. In the 1970s, he travelled to Africa with the Jackson Five and documented Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. In recent years, museums and curators have shown renewed interest in his work. ‘Kwame Brathwaite: Things Well Worth Waiting For’ is on view at the Arts Institute of Chicago until 24 July.

John Leighton is to step down as director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland in February 2024, after 18 years in the role. Major projects during his tenure include the redevelopment of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, completed in 2011, and the ongoing expansion of the Scottish National Gallery, due to open in the summer. Leighton has also overseen a number of fundraising campaigns for significant acquisitions, including Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen (1851) in 2017 and (jointly with the National Gallery in London) Titian’s Diana and Actaeon (1556–59) in 2009 and Diana and Callisto (1556–59) in 2012. In recent months, Leighton has been vocal about the scope of the financial difficulties facing Scotland’s national institutions, telling the Scottish Parliament in September last year that ‘we face a funding challenge the like of which I’ve never before witnessed or imagined’, and that Scotland’s museums were ‘struggling to keep the lights on’. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Two has been closed to the public since last October.

Art Basel and UBS have published their annual Art Market report. In 2022, overall growth was low, with the market increasing just three per cent in 2022 to $67.8bn. The market has also continued to look increasingly top heavy, with the upper echelons significantly outperforming the rest – both among dealers and at auction, where works priced at $10m or more grew in value by some 12 per cent – the only part of the sector to report growth in value.

Lead image: used under a Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 4.0)