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The week in art news – Jean-Luc Martinez appointed ‘interim’ president of the Louvre

16 April 2021

Jean-Luc Martinez has been named ‘interim’ president of the Louvre, while French officials decide whether to renew his contract at the museum for a third (and final) term. The decision, which was supposed to be made earlier this week, has been delayed owing to the pandemic; the French culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has just returned to work after a period of hospitalisation for Covid-19. Martinez, who was appointed to his first term as the Louvre’s director-president in 2013, has been vocal about his desire to stay on in the role, stating that he has no plans to direct any other museum.

Commercial galleries in France must remain closed for the duration of the national lockdown, a court has ruled. The association of French art galleries (CPGA) had sued the government over this restriction, arguing that the current rules created unfair competition with auction houses, which are permitted to stay open. On Wednesday the Council of State dismissed the complaint, highlighting the current high levels of Covid transmission in France.

This week Unesco published its report on how museums around the world are faring during the pandemic. This ‘provisional assessment’, which is based on data compiled from 87 Unesco member states on some 104,000 museums, makes for grim reading. On average, museums in 2020 lost between 40 and 60 per cent of their projected revenue. In regions where institutions rely heavily on earned income, such as the US and UK, ‘job losses have been rapid and particularly significant’. The report also finds that in nearly half of the states that responded, public subsidies for national institutions have decreased – in some cases by up to 40 per cent.

The Cambodian ministry of culture has condemned a series of manipulated images of Khmer Rouge victims that were published on the Vice website last week. ‘We urge researchers, artists and the public not to manipulate any historical source to respect the victims,’ said the ministry in a statement issued last Sunday. The images in question were created by an Irish artist named Matt Loughrey, who colourised black-and-white photographs and, in some cases, edited the subjects’ expressions so they appeared to be smiling. (The original photographs are held in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which serves as a memorial to the estimated 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians who died between 1975 and 1979.) The article and the images it contained are no longer online and Vice has issued a statement expressing ‘regret’ for its publication.