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The week in art news – staff accuse Barbican Centre of being institutionally racist

11 June 2021

Current and former staff at the Barbican Centre in London have published an account of alleged incidents of discrimination, ‘written anonymously by […] employees who have experienced racism’, ranging from interactions with other, often more senior members of staff to abuse from members of the public. Copies of the book, titled Barbican Stories, have been sent to the institution’s directors, heads of departments and some members of its board. A Barbican spokesperson has said, ‘We are shocked and saddened to hear about these allegations, and will immediately launch an independent review into them.’

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will return two Benin Bronzes from its collection and is brokering the return of a third that had been offered to the Met in a private sale. The two works at the Met, a pair of brass plaques from the 16th century, were among those looted by British soldiers from Benin City in 1897 before entering the British Museum’s collection. They were transferred to the National Museum in Lagos in the 1950s; they then entered the international art market – before being donated to the Met in 1999 – in what the Met has described as ‘unclear circumstances’. The third object is a 14th-century brass Ife head; it will join the two plaques in the Nigerian National Collections.

Last Friday a fire broke out at Donald Judd’s former architecture office in Marfa, lasting more than 12 hours and severely damaging the site. The two-storey brick building had been undergoing works as part of the wider Marfa Restoration Plan, a project initiated by the Judd Foundation in 2018 to preserve and expand public access to the minimalist artist’s buildings in Marfa. Due to the renovation, which was set to be completed by early July, the office was empty at the time of the fire and there we no injuries or damaged artworks or artefacts.

Legacy Russell, currently an associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, has been appointed to direct the Kitchen, the influential venue for new media art and performance in Greenwich Village. Also in New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has appointed Joy Bivins, associate director of collections and research at the institution, as its next director – replacing Kevin Young, who earlier this year became head of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. And in another recent appointment of note, archaeologist Nikolaos Chr. Stampolidis – head of the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens – has been selected as director-general of the Acropolis Museum.